TVs

Product placement on UK TV this month, with a logo to warn you

Product placement is coming to the UK and there's not a damn thing you can do about it, other than turning your TV off and going to do something more interesting instead.

From 28 February it will be legal for the producers of UK-made TV shows to accept money in return for placing a specific product on screen during a programme.

This is different to normal advertising in two important ways. Firstly, the products will be essentially promoted by their proximity to big-name celebrities such as Simon Cowell and that lot in Coronation Street. Secondly, they occur outside of normal commercial breaks and can theoretically be unlimited in number. The only way you'll know it's going on is a logo that will appear on-screen at the start and end of the show, and after an advert break.

The only programmes that can't have product placement are those aimed at children, religious programming and news. Items such as junk food, alcohol, cigarettes, escort services and prescription drugs are also banned from being placed in a programme. So Simon Cowell won't be able to smoke a ciggie or drink a Coke, but he could enjoy a branded orange juice or use an Apple laptop.

We're broadly against such things, because we've seen what happens in the US to both TV and movies when they include product placement. Think back to the movie iRobot. Remember that ghastly Converse shoes promo? Give some thought to most Michael Bay films -- admittedly he's a talentless hack of the highest order, but you have to give him credit for squeezing 45 commercial messages into the second Transformers movie and nearly as many into The Island.

No one minds with Michael Bay flicks, because they all look like glorified, over-long adverts, and your brain has turned to water within the first five minutes anyway. But when it comes to British TV -- still some of the best in the world -- we're worried that it could affect the quality and narrative.

This demonstrably happens on US TV all the time. Cisco goes out of its way to insert its products all over American TV. Importantly, the shows then have to write those items into the story. Cisco's greatest triumph has to be getting the ringtone from its IP phones on millions of mobile phones worldwide as a result of its appearance in 24. You can't buy advertising like that, but people will happily give up their soul for the same ringtone as Chloe O'Brian.

So, what do you think, are we overreacting? Is product placement all that bad? Let us know below. Oh, and if you're thinking of claiming you "never notice it" then why not ask yourself why these companies are prepared to spend such mega-money getting their shizzle placed in your favourite show?