So the last few weeks were potentially going to mark a significant step change for the industry thanks to the amended Ofcom regulation around product placement. We waited with bated breath to see a flurry of ‘Ps’ (the new onscreen warning signal designed to alert viewers to the presence of product placement in programmes) appearing across our screens and brands popping up left right and centre in all of our favourite shows.
The reality though is that it’s all been a bit of an anti-climax (a typical British debut according to the Telegraph!). Well done to Nestle and their lovely Dolce Gusto coffee maker for taking the leap of faith with TV. However, we’re all asking ourselves, is their placement, hidden in the back of the This Morning kitchen, really worth £100K? Will they genuinely receive a £500K return within the proposed three months (based on the good old 5:1 formula) or are they currently challenging ITV to pull their finger out?
Using this particular placement example as a stake in the ground, we believe there is a genuine opportunity for brands to make product placement work hard by taking a more strategic as well as integrated approach.
Firstly, gaining the support and engagement of talent i.e. TV presenters and actors, builds the power of the brand to stand out and for a message to be relayed. Had Phil Vickery, or even the lovely Phillip Schofield himself, been commissioned as an ambassador for Dolce Gusto and integrated into the deal, the power and effectiveness of the exposure could have been significantly higher.
Secondly, incorporating product placement into a wider PR or even 360 campaign, launch or push could create a lot more engagement and deeper messaging for a brand or product, delivering over and above solitary (and possibly meaningless) placement and general awareness.
What we PRs should also continue to consider (as part of our integrated approach) is the other option: prop hire, whereby products are placed within TV programmes as props, organised via dedicated prop hire companies. It’s a fraction of the price, still delivers exposure and although it is not as guaranteed, it still seems like the most lucrative option at this moment in time. The key benefits being that the ROI has the potential to be substantial and it doesn’t require a super sized ‘P’ branded across the screen that everyone, including the family goldfish, can’t miss.
At time of writing, we see the next big product placement announcement as TRESemmé signs a deal with Sky. They seem to have taken on the learnings from Dolce Gusto and, in addition to product placement, have also sponsored British/Irish Next Top Model. It will be interesting to see if and how they activate across channels in the summer as the new programme goes live.
So with two brand hats in the ring, we predict that marketers and PRs are deliberating, cogitating and digesting (should that be a product placement for Lloyd Grossman?!) the value of investing in product placement.
And as we do so, we’re also playing the watching and waiting game, intrigued to see the next brand to reveal their ‘big P’ on our screens. Our current predictions: Jordan back in the jungle with her pack of Andrex Gorgeous Comfort, Jack Duckworth installing a Stannah Stairlift, Simon Cowell sipping Tetley Tea on the XFactor or This Morning on the TV in the background of all scenes of Hollyoaks.