UK To Ban Product Placement On TV

    June 16, 2008

One of the great things about digital TV and a personal video recorder (PVR) is the ease with which you as a viewer can wholly control what you watch.

With the exception of the news, I rarely watch TV as it’s broadcast. Instead, I programme the PVR to record things that I might want to watch, and then watch it when I have time.

Of course, one thing I always do when watching a recorded programme is skip through the ads.

That behaviour is pretty consistent among everyone I know who uses a PVR.

It’s often got me thinking that sooner or later, we might see a big shift from paid advertising spots on TV to more product placement, so that advertisers can still expose passive viewers to brand messaging.

Not in the UK, though, according to the FT:

The UK is to ban product placement, a blow to the advertising industry and commercial broadcasters.

Andy Burnham, culture secretary, said the government had an economic interest in protecting standards in UK broadcasting because they were “part of Britain’s brand when it comes to world markets”.

“Here and now, I do want to signal that I think there are some lines that we should not cross – one of which is that you can buy the space between the programmes on commercial channels, but not the space within them,” Mr Burnham told a media seminar in London.

No worries, you might think, there’s always the internet. But they’ve got that covered, too:

[…] And in comments that may alarm the digital media industry, he suggested that the government should have a role in ensuring the same standards were met on the internet as on television and radio.

“If a clip on YouTube gets a million hits, it is akin to broadcasting and it doesn’t seem to me to be too difficult to have an alert on that clip, an alert for violence or for sex,” Mr Burnham said.

I would have thought that trying to control or restrict what people want to do with content they choose to watch – where that content transcends geographical boundaries, and where you have so many other choices – is a venture doomed to eventual failure.

In any event, at a time when overall TV audience numbers are falling, advertisers ought to be more concerned about how to engage with people more effectively rather than worry about ‘analogue world’ restrictions.