Ofcom wants warning symbol for product placement

Further to Angie Dean’s story on branded entertainment, we should for a moment consider Ofcom’s ludicrous suggestion that TV programmes containing product placement should have warning signs on them.

Ofcom wants an on-air symbol at the beginning and end of transmissions to warn viewers that, gosh!, the car tearing round the corner or the box of chocolates on the coffee table is there because the brand owners paid the production company a fee to get it on screen.

The idea is that there will be a little yellow circle on screen, rather like the red triangle on Channel Four’s more risqué output of the 1980s, which operated as a splendid marketing device to attract those looking for something a rather more saucy than the regular fare.

While it can be argued that audiences should be warned if there’s going to be excessive swearing or explicit sex on screen — although these days there’s so much of it available most viewers probably yawn rather than get excited one way or the other — it’s difficult to see what people need protecting from.

Product placement has been around in Hollywood for years, with the strategically placed bottle of Pepsi or cup of Starbucks, so it’s not as if the poor, naïve viewer will be misled and waste their hard-earned cash on things they wouldn’t otherwise have bought. It’s the usual case of a public body finding work for itself and trying to demonstrate that it’s worth its funding.

As long as they impose a limit on the number of products placed in any one programme, so the whole thing doesn’t become annoying, most viewers won’t notice any difference when product placement gets under way.

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About David O'Reilly

David is a former deputy editor of Campaign and writer for a number of leading titles including Management Today and the Sunday Times. He is a partner in The Editorial Partnership.