Whilst I believe that product placement is nearing a tipping point in the UK market, it is clear that the industry will need to mature before the true scale of product placement can be realised.
For one, the industry will need to successfully pen and execute a few bigger deals to build confidence and competency in the field. As David Charlesworth, Head of Sponsorship at Channel 4, noted: “We need to learn from the first deals and not run before we can walk, and no one wants to irritate viewers." Success will most certainly be born from experience and therefore all parties in the value chain will need to be willing to experiment in the early stages in order to strike a win-win scenario for everyone involved.
One group in particular – the ad agencies – will need to take an active role in making this happen. They will be the custodians of fee structures and deal making, and only they hold the trusted position between the producers and broadcasters on one side and the brand owners and advertisers on the other. It will be up to the agencies to not only bring all parties together but also to sort out some of the more fundamental issues at the core of product placement.
That said, I firmly believe that few of the challenges represent true barriers to success. In fact, once all of the parties crystallise their understanding of the unique benefits of product placement, I believe that we will see rather rapid and heady growth in the industry.
Who knows, maybe in a few years’ time, EastEnders viewers won’t bat an eyelid when The Queen Victoria pub gets audited and Alfie Moon calls in KPMG to help sort out the mess.