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RIGHT TIME AND PLACEMENT

18 April, 2011 - Source: McCann Manchester

On February 28th, behind TV Chef Phil Vickery’s left elbow was a coffee maker that made history. Nescafé paid to place their Dolce Gusto machine in This Morning, the first instance of paid product placement on British commercial TV. After the industry rumours (will Philip and Fern actually take a branded sip? Will the machine be front and centre?), the appearance itself was rather anti-climactic. But ITV’s caution is entirely understandable, says Richard Johnston, Head of Broadcast at Universal McCann, as it’s not clear how British viewers will respond to the move.
On February 28th, behind TV Chef Phil Vickery’s left elbow was a coffee maker that made history. Nescafé paid to place their Dolce Gusto machine in This Morning, the first instance of paid product placement on British commercial TV.
 
After the industry rumours (will Philip and Fern actually take a branded sip? Will the machine be front and centre?), the appearance itself was rather anti-climactic. But ITV’s caution is entirely understandable, says  Richard Johnston, Head of Broadcast at Universal McCann, as it’s not clear how British viewers will respond to the move.
 
The concept of product placement has been around for years. In films and US imports, characters frequently interact with recognisable brands. The contents of a Samsonite case held the key to a mystery on Lost, while James Bond always checks his Omega watch on board a Virgin Atlantic plane these days.

The restrictive rules on where product placement can be used (no news programming, no children’s shows) and which products are allowed (no alcohol, cigarettes or even unhealthy foods) mean that we are unlikely to see a proliferation in the short term.

Having suggested that viewers won’t notice an immediate sea change, what can advertisers expect from the change in rules? Nescafé’s investment probably paid off in PR, rather than media value, but as the fuss dies down, advertisers looking to use product placement to build brand awareness will need to closely examine the benefits.

For a start, how do we measure the value of product placement? Software has been developed to measure duration, visibility and area of any product placement, but valuing context and engagement will be more difficult.
 

In terms of executing a product placement campaign, there are two ways an advertiser can access programming. The first (seen on ITV’s This Morning) is to physically incorporate products and brands into the shooting of the show. A second way (called digital insertion) involves using CGI to digitally add brands or logos into pre-filmed programming.

Digital insertion of packaging and logos into programs may be relatively quick and easy, but will preclude any interaction, which is surely where the greater value lies. How much will the rules allow presenter interaction with brands? Will consumers have a negative or positive reaction to brands intruding into their favourite shows? We will only be able to answer these questions when a few more brave brands jump into these untested waters, and we can see the impact; for now, it is simply too early to tell.

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