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Product placement cheer

I admit I was going to take the easy option and give you a New Year’s column full of spurious punditry predictions that you will have forgotten long before I can ever be held to account for them.

But the turn of a new year seems to demand something more concrete, particularly since 2011 must be a year for seizing every opportunity that dares to present itself.

Thankfully the production industry doesn’t have long to wait before the year’s big opportunity rears. Ofcom is allowing product placement on British TV screens from the end of February, and if you believe the men with calculators that could mean a new revenue stream of up to £150m a year. That’s quite some opportunity, particularly since it comes off the back of a 14% boost in TV ad spend in 2010.

But as the new product placement rules sweep in, confusion abounds. Who will make the money? ITV is keen to promote product placement in those shows that it produces itself, so that there’s no question of sharing the booty with an independent producer.

And, of course, ITV already has established relationships with the media buying agencies that can incorporate product placement deals into overall airtime trading negotiations.

So for indies, product placement demands a new etiquette on how the money will be split between producer and broadcaster.

As yet there seems to be little firm policy, so expect the new year to kick off with a scramble to negotiate terms. But what’s pretty clear to anyone with an eye on the ad market is that the dawn of (official) product placement won’t see advertisers suddenly adding millions to their budgets in order to take advantage of the new rules. Any money spent on getting their brands into the fabric of the programmes will simply be creamed from their existing advertising pot.

But I feel compelled to begin the new year on as positive a note as possible, so let me conclude with one prediction. Product placement will make TV a more attractive commercial proposition compared to other media. If advertisers are going to cream the top off ad budgets to fund product placement, it might just be their press, radio or outdoor ad budgets that suffer. Which sounds like a happy new year for TV.

Claire Beale is editor of Campaign

Posted 14 January 2011 by Claire Beale
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