Platform holders and publishers at the ready – media regulator Ofcom has announced that product placement on TV will be officially allowed from February 2011.
Coming into effect on February 28th, any show carrying such advertising must carry a specific logo for a minimum of three seconds at the beginning and end of the show, as well as after ad breaks.
Children’s, news, current affairs and religious programming will be exempt from the legislation, while the placement of alcohol, tobacco, medicines, weapons, escort agencies, baby milk and as foods high in sugar or salt will not be permitted.
Ofcom says the new rules "will enable commercial broadcasters to access new sources of revenue, whilst providing protection for audiences". Products must not be shown in an "unduly prominent" way, with all references needing to be "editorially justified".
The Guardian reports that product placement company MirriAd predicts the UK market could reach an annual value of 150m.
Of course, product placement of a sort already occurs on UK TV. Though not paid for, PRs put a tremendous amount of effort into getting clients products placed into key shows.
And we already see key games brands starring in some of the UKs biggest shows – former best mates Paddy and Marlon regularly mention their Xbox rivalry in Emmerdale, for instance.
And putting brands on screen is only part of the potential. In 2002 the first episode of the second series of US crime drama 24 aired without ads. Instead, Ford paid a hefty sum for the show to run for a full uninterrupted hour – as long as star Jack Bauer drove a Ford Expedition for the entirety of the episode, with other Ford cars to starring in later episodes.