TV Product Placement and Logo Design: We are Free to Buy What They Tell Us?
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Nov 19, 2011

TV Product Placement and Logo Design: We are Free to Buy What They Tell Us?

Long established and beloved soap opera Coronation Street was the first UK television show to include product placement - in the form of a Nationwide branded automatic teller machine (ATM) - when an episode of the show aired on Monday evening (14/11/2011).  The rules of product placement within UK media were changed by the government back in February this year, in the wake of falling advertising revenues for commercial broadcasters.
This event raises a number of significant questions, most prominently; Are UK television viewers due to be incessantly bombarded with (even more!) messages to buy? And; What makes for effective product placement?

The New UK Product Placement Rules

Can you imagine Ian Beale from Eastenders going on a supermarket hunt specifically for Cadburys-branded chocolate selection boxes for his children this Christmas? How about a group of policemen solving a crime in Coronation Street using a number of iPads? Or character Edna Birch (of Emmerdale) feeding her pet dog Tootsie Pedigree Chum before slyly winking at the camera? In order to prevent such cringe-worthy moments from occurring on our screens, a number of strict rules have been put into place.

First and foremost, any program which contains product placement (PP) must include the ‘P’ logo above for three seconds at the beginning of the show and after every commercial break, for this indicates to viewers that product placement advertising lies within. This allows viewers to make “informed decisions” when it comes to that which they buy and prevents any viewer from making accusations that such advertising is in any way subliminal.
Other rules for product placement – as laid out by regulatory authority Ofcom – include:
  • News programs, those for children and any of those that have consumer advice, religion or current affairs as a central topic cannot include product placement of any kind;
  • Products which cannot be advertised in this way include alcohol, cigarettes, food that is of a high fat and/or sugar content, baby milk, weapons, medicines and those relating to gambling;
  • Any programs funded by the BBC’s licences fee are banned from including product placement advertising;
  • There must be ‘editorial justification’ for any products which are placed for reasons of advertisement. This means that all placed products must be relevant to the story being presented within the program (i.e. narratives should not be altered so that a specific product can be included or referenced);
  • No special attention should be given to the placed product. This means no references to how “good” the product is should be made, nor should the camera focus on the product above anything else that is occurring on the screen and
  • Any UK television channel which plans to allow product placement within any of their programs in the future must run ‘Information Campaigns’ for their viewers. Many channels are choosing to do this by broadcasting the advert below during commercial breaks:

These strict rules for product placement within UK television programs mean that those companies paying for the inclusion of their goods need to be sure that they have a strong brand identity – selected shows for PP advertising are not necessarily ideal platforms for announcing a new product or service to the population (unless these new products are from long established brands of course).

Logo Design for Product Placement

Products are usually recognised in association with their logo. For example, a 6 pint bottle of milk is just that without the inclusion of the Cravendale logo which transforms a basic food product into something more special. The inclusion of a flat screen television monitor inside an electronic shop in which a popular TV character is employed then, is hardly product placement unless the Sony or Toshiba logo is also included in the scene (either on the product itself or elsewhere in the store).
Brands looking to enter the advertising-arm of product placement should keep the following in mind when it comes to their logo design:
  • Logos included in product placement situations must be instantly recognisable. This is because screen time for included products is likely to be limited to just a few seconds only, in order to adhere to Ofcom’s rules above;
  • This also means that if a logo includes any text, it must be easily readable;
  • Brightly coloured logos are - arguably - more likely to be noticed by the viewer, for they usually stand out from the rest of the screen’s activities (if not bright in hue, colour should at least be used effectively in a logo’s design) and
  • The logo included on placed products should already be part of a larger advertising campaign. PP campaigns only work effectively for those brands and/or products which are already in the consciousness of viewers. Being aware of the consumer emotional connotations that greet the sight of a logo will also help companies to decide in which programs the placement of their products would be most effective.
The last point is especially important because PP deals are likely to cost in the region of thousands of pounds, even for the less-popular shows that are broadcast on UK television channels. I would say that this high cost for PP is concerning, due to the fact that these prices are often likely to be beyond the financial means of smaller UK brands, leading to the possible further McDonaldisation of the UK market place, which directly affects the buying habits of consumers (click here for a further explanation of the term).
Then again; it’s not like the western consumer marketplace has exactly played fair up until this point.

The author of this guest post – KC Green – is a logo maker for a renowned branding and logo design company located in Canada.