Government approves product placement on television

The Czech government on Monday approved a proposal to allow product placement in television programmes, meaning that the names of real-world products can now appear in television serials, films and other programmes, and TV producers can, of course, make money off of it. In one sense it means a new advertising medium, and in another, simply bringing above-board what producers have already been doing for a long time.

The Czech Republic must approve an EU directive on audiovisual media services, and that means good news for advertisers and television broadcasters. The directive entails that producers will now be able to “plant”, so to speak, real products in their programmes, bringing more firmly into Czech society a practice that is an important part of the advertising industry elsewhere, as Richard Ihuel, executive manager of the advertising agency EURO RSCG explains:

“It has become far more important over the past five to ten years, mainly due to the fact that many advertisers have seen product placement as a complimentary means of promoting their brands and themselves, and to have access to broad audiences, so you see typical examples with James Bond for instance, you see very prestigious movies featuring Nokia handsets, featuring I-phones, cars, alcoholic beverages. It is restricted for products for which advertising or promotion in general is not allowed, but for all other categories it works pretty well.”

No joy for the would-be Marlboro Men of Czech TV production, but a great boon, needless to say, to advertisers, their clients, and the television stations who sell the space, particularly in times of economic woe. So why couldn’t it be used before? Pavel Brabec is the president of the Association of Czech Advertising Agencies and Marketing Communication:

Pavel Brabec
“There was no category for it. It was undefined, so it wasn’t forbidden but it wasn’t allowed, and producers had to work between those lines. Now it can be said about marketing communication throughout Europe that the effectiveness of “classic advertising”, like television commercials, is on the downturn. The public of course receives a great deal of advertising information and they have become, I’d say, immune to that kind of stimulus. So both clients and advertising agencies are looking for other, more effective ways to place their promotional messages in the media.”

Officially allowing product placement on television however does not change a great deal, merely legitimising what producers have been doing on the sly for a long time anyway. But if the public has become immune to other forms of advertising, as Mr Brabec suggests, is there not a danger that viewers will react aversely to even greater commercial ubiquity and do advertisers see no risk of saturating their audience? Richard Ihuel again:

“Most people are used to product placement for the simple reason that most people are exposed to international media and international feature movies and press. So they already are experiencing product placement – sometimes without knowing it. But it is a fact of life. Now will people and consumers be totally saturated? I don’t think so. Maybe the more product placement there is, the less receptive to it people will become. Talking about saturation is a little over the top.”

If you are particularly opposed to product placement you will still have sanctuary in children’s programming, where the practice remains forbidden. Elsewhere on TV however you’re likely to see everything your favourite TV stars drive, eat and wear regardless of whether you like it or even notice.