Most interesting aspect of UK product placement deal is ability to doctor old programmes

Just imagine, you could take an old version of the Queen’s Christmas broadcast and insert a can of Coke or maybe a bottle of Gordon’s.

Actually you couldn’t because Gordon’s gin is alcohol (not because it’s the Queen). And some Coke brands could even fall foul of the new blacklist of banned products because they’re too high in sugar.

But the widely-flagged Ofcom changes in UK broadcasting rules to allow product placement do, in theory, allow broadcasters and others to take old shows and drop new products in them.

This could actually be quite significant for the broadcasters of such shows, including ‘gold’ digital channels. The case for so doing is being enthusiastically promoted by former Endemol boss Peter Bazalgette whose MirriAds company is offering the technology. Embedded advertising he calls it.

The rules on product placement change from February 28 next year but it’s unlikely that there will be a huge rush by advertisers, for a start many of them excluded (see long list in the link above).

In fact at first glance it looks as though the only products allowed will be Sunday schools (the inclusive and multicultural ones) and apple pie (low fat version of course).

The biggest immediate effect will be on those companies who have been making a good living out of product placement on TV for decades, the ones who arrange deals with producers to supply ‘free’ products and charge the donors (who include some very large companies) for fixing the deals. But nobody’s supposed to know about this.

One of the must successful versions of product placement (although I don’t know if money changed hands) is the relentless exposure of Apple MacBooks in international rugby matches. Every time the camera turns to the coach and his cronies, there they are peering at their MacBooks (Apple logo facing the camera of course) to see why their team just allowed a score under the posts.

The only ones among the home countries who don’t seem to do this are Martin Johnson’s England crew. Maybe they’re sponsored by Microsoft (they might be, Microsoft sponsors the big screens at Twickenham).

So which old shows would suit which brands? Only Fools and Horses and Asda? Antiques Roadshow and the Daily Telegraph?

Hours of fun for all the family.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.