Is product placement a good thing for British TV?

Andy Burnham used to be our culture secretary and he gave the thumbs down on product placement on British TV. Ace! Ben Bradshaw, his successor might just be giving it the thumbs up. Drat!

I understand why TV suits want some product placement on our shows. Advertising revenue has fallen through the floorboards and, relatively speaking, the TV stations are stony broke. However, I’m not especially keen on the whole notion of product placement.

Of course, I realise that this very article is surrounded by advertisements. Even some of the words in this rant will be highlighted as keywords to generate cash for my bosses. So any anti-advertising angle I may take may seem rather hypocritical.

Naturally, I have nothing against advertising per se. I do have issues with the blurring of commercial endeavour and drama.

It’s difficult to swallow a convieniently placed beer can or watch whilst trying to get into a gripping storyline or whatever.

This has been going on in The States for ages now… there was a toe-curling scene in one episode of Heroes which saw Claire turning the show into a commercial for a brand of car. It was needless and stuck out like a sore thumb.

On it goes. Jack Bauer uses Dell Computers, the Sex and the City crones aren’t exactly shy about promoting various shoe makes. American Idol is well known for the Coke cups that sit on their desks.

Apparently, in the US, even the subtitling is sponsored which is hardly surprising when you consider most shows are pretty much one third commercials.

When talking about this, I’m always reminded of the one that got away… and that was in Britain. In one episode of Only Fools and Horses, Del was continually seen drinking cans of Heineken, label side out, drinking in profile. Yet no-one ever mentions it.

Naturally, product placement is a part of real life. If you drink fizzy pop, chances are you’re not covering it up in the hope that you’re not influencing anyone. In Sex and the City for example, you kinda understand why they’re going on about Shoe A by Designer X.

That said, I am grateful that British TV hasn’t succumbed to becoming a walking advertorial for the highest bidder. For that reason alone, we can feel slightly smug about ‘artistic integrity’, even if it is a load of old cobblers.

What’s more, we could miss out on all those fun, invented products like Honey Bee Flakes or Newton and Ridley ales.

Still, TV could stand to make more than £100m a year through this which will hopefully make for better shows to watch. I thinks it’s fair to assume that the broadcasters will have to be a bit smart about the ways in which a product is placed… devaluing their own shows would be suicide. It’ll be interesting to see how this pans out.

(These words were typed on a Xygiano Steam-Powered EcoComputer and the writer was powered by KerBlammo! The energy drink for those who think!)

About the author

I'm Mof Gimmers.

I've been writing about TV for a long time. I love it and loathe it in equal measures. I'm pretty sure the TV feels the same away about me too.
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