Product placement is a marketing technique used by brands to promote a product or service through featuring them in media such as television, film, radio, or even video games. The purpose of product placement is to draw attention to a particular brand or product, to increase its visibility, and ultimately to persuade consumers to buy the product.
Product placement involves the strategic placement of a product into the content of a medium, so the brand appears in the background of the story or featured prominently in the foreground. For example, a cereal brand may place their product in a breakfast scene on a television show. These placements can occur naturally and organically, ‘in-context’ and ‘contextual’, or they can be more obvious and direct, placing a product in an advert. Product placement can also be called sponsored placement, brand inclusion, embedded marketing, content integration, branded content, brand funded stories, and branded entertainment.
The general guidelines of product placement in the United Kingdom (UK) are quite strict, as the UK is one of the top markets for product placement. In the UK, product placement has only been allowed since February 2011, and the practice is therefore relatively new. Luckily, the regulation is quite straightforward and easy to adhere to.
The first of these guidelines is that product placement can only take place in television programs or films that are classified as PG, 12, 12A, 15 and 18 or higher. This excludes programmes, documentaries, and other media aimed at children, as the regulation states that product placement should not be used to directly target younger viewers.
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The second guideline is that, while product placement is allowed, it should not actively encourage viewers to buy the product. In other words, product placement must be used subtly, and the product or brand should not be used to endorse or promote a particular message or lifestyle.
The third guideline is that product placements must be identified as such in the programme. This is done by having a logo or a ‘P for placement’ logo at the start, or the end of the programme. The viewers of the programme should therefore be aware that product placement is being used.
Finally, product placement must comply with the UK code of broadcasting practice. This includes that product placement must not negatively affect the editorial integrity of the programme, meaning that the product placement should not distort, or take away from the programme’s content.
Product placement can be a great way for brands to reach new audiences, and increase their visibility in a natural and organic way. However, it is important to remember that product placement must never be used to push a particular message or lifestyle, nor should it be great enough to distort the programme’s content. The UK’s guidelines make sure that product placement is used responsibly within the country and thus help ensure that viewers are well-informed and aware of product placements.