A new set of rules to govern product placement in TV shows has been announced by Ofcom, the independent communications regulator. The advertising method, which has long been used in the US, will become legal in Britain on 28 February 2011. As a result, channels and programme makers could be paid to feature or mention a product in a show, as long as it conforms to Ofcom's rules.
The most noticeable rule is that product placement must be made explicit. The official 'P' symbol must appear for three seconds before and after a programme, as well as after any ad breaks in the programme, if it features product placement. This will appear in the corner of the screen and will be around the same size as a channel logo. In addition, Ofcom has decided that there must be 'editorial justification' for including the product.
Of course, like all display advertising, there will be restrictions on product placement. Alcohol, cigarettes, gambling and medicines cannot be involved, while foods containing high levels of fat, salt or sugar are also banned. Programmes that cannot feature product placement include news, children's, religious, current affairs and consumer advice. Meanwhile, restrictions on BBC advertising means it will not be featuring any product placement.
The rules governing TV product placement follows a controversy over a similar practice on Twitter. The OFT is investigating celebrities paid to tweet about products; in the US, paid tweets must feature an explicit declaration of sponsorship.