I don’t disagree that the market for product placement is going to grow in the coming years. But do I think that it’s the “next big thing” as far as UK media is concerned? No, I don’t.
Quite simply, I don’t see how it can come to compete with traditional display advertising. If its scope is limited, then so is the extent to which it can grab the attention of the industry decision-makers.
Product placement doesn’t offer the editorial control that display advertising does and I query whether there are enough brands prepared to pay for it anyway.
Don’t get me wrong; I think it looks like a handy new revenue stream which will inevitably be of interest to content producers but projections of it being a £100 million market seem optimistic to me.
Even then, that would only represent around five percent of the UK market. I actually expect the final figure to settle down in the tens of millions rather than at a hundred.
The fact that people often refer to the same two or three examples of product placement being used in the UK is indicative of just how immature this market is; those examples are the only examples!
The real difficulties for me begin with the complex set of new relationships which will have to be built in order for product placement to become commercially mainstream.
In addition, I have a problem with the volumes. I don’t think you could ever have more than three or four brands in a single piece of content.
Clem sees this as driving competition. But I can’t get away from the fact that the number compares poorly with the 7-9 minutes of spot advertising available per channel, per hour.
For sure, technology is having an impact on the number of eyeballs on spot advertising but it is not about to kill it off. Technology which may allow the viewer to completely skip adverts would be a game changer but that’s not on the horizon.
There’s even an argument for saying that technology will enhance spot advertising. Might we start producing ads which are only properly viewed when you’re whizzing through at x32 speed for example? It’s not beyond the realms of technological capability.
The point about international sales is a contentious one as it again adds to the complexity inherent within product placement.
Producers may be faced with having to digitally replace a product which is recognisable in one country but not another. Alternatively, their search for a product placement partner may be limited to those products which have truly global reach in one consistent form.
Either way, securing a lucrative product placement deal just became a lot harder. And, without getting too deep into the accountancy details, capturing all the resulting revenue streams may prove beyond the scope of producers’ existing systems.
I don’t accept that product placement’s success in the film world guarantees success in the TV world. Films provide escapism whereas TV is a rather more trusted medium.
Broadcasters know that they abuse that trust at their peril. I imagine they will fear that they have too much to lose because of careless, sloppy product placement than they have to gain in terms of potential revenue.
I believe that product placement will grow in popularity within UK media and I think it deserves to be thought of more respectfully than just a passing fad. Broadcasters will certainly pursue an interest in it; just as they would any other potential revenue stream.
However, I think its usage will be limited to a few high end brands in high end production content – and, even then, only in a way which carries next to no risk for either side.
I think it’s simply too much of a distraction from the core businesses of production and broadcasting. For that reason, while it may attract some interest, to think of it as the next big thing in UK media is – I believe – wide of the mark.