Currently, according to BBC News, “References are allowed ‘where their inclusion within the programme is justified editorially’, and goods can appear if they are obtained from a company for free or at a reduced rate to lower the cost of production.”
The new proposal will allow placement of whatever marketers are willing to pay for. Yaxley’s blog discusses how product placement used to be the role of the PR professional. She discusses the relationship aspect that used to be incorporated into trades like these. Deals like “I will loan you our product for free if it is featured in a shot in your production”, opposed to this proposal where the production side won’t use a product unless it is paid to do so. This sends product placement into the hard figured marketing side of the spectrum.
I can see the concern though, with more and more homes adopting TiVo and other DRV services, commercials no longer hit the mass reach they used to. Movie trailers on TV have begun to adapt for the TiVo world, with all the key points posted at the top border of the commercial for its entire length. When I first saw it I was annoyed because I occasionally like to guess the movie before the title shows and with the title and opening date on the top the whole time takes the fun away. Later when watching something I had TiVoed and saw the same trailer I realized the brilliance behind it, even while fast forwarding I still knew the movie title and the opening date. While I am still debating my person feelings towards this new style of trailer I can appreciate the thought process behind it. Other products must create their own TiVo adaptation as well and perhaps product placement in TV is the answer.
As a PR student I may have a bias but I believe that product placements are just done better when it appears more natural as it does in PR then how forced it may seem when marketing is paying for it. But I also believe anything marketing can do PR can do better and for less money, so yes there is definite bias, especially since I have yet to truly be in the real world and have to compete for clients.
The BBC News article goes on to quote Media commentator and former ITV executive, Steve Hewlett, “If it’s done badly the viewers will switch off. If drama directors and producers and writers handle this badly they will undermine their own product, so there is a sense in which this is self-correcting.”
An example that comes to my mind is from the movie The Truman Show, where that cast would stop mid-sentence, turn and face the camera and plug the product they were using. As Hewlett said viewer will switch it off but if it becomes common place is this the kind of annoyance we will have to live with?
What do you think? Is there a way to for product placement to be paid for and have both sides feel they’ve gotten their money’s worth? Will a Pepsi can being left on a table be enough for the marketing side? Will the writers be able to promote Pepsi without compromising their show? Is it better to leave it to PR, and focus on deals that are mutual beneficial, that come from the two sides building relationships with one another? You decide.