Sky Joins Product Placement Bandwagon

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Since Ofcom’s groundbreaking ruling, many UK manufacturers have been developing product placement partnerships to add revenue. Sky is joining this group, as the company has recently signed a product placement deal that will place Microsoft products such as the Xbox 360 and the Kinect on their popular sports programs A League of Their Own.

The title sequence for the show will feature audience members playing Kinect Sports games while the stars of the programme get ready to film. There is nothing unexpected about this deal; Xbox 360 was already a major sponsor of the series. This will be the first Sky programme to feature product placement, but not the last; the channel has already signed a deal allowing haircare company Tresemme to place their products on Sky Living HD’s Britain and Ireland’s Next Top Model.

Product placement is not just a source of revenue for the channels and programmes involved, but a chance to tie in more completely with select brands. For example, as we saw with Sky and Xbox, the programming may use the placement of a product for an existing sponsor. This type of marketing has been shown to be highly effective with the fickle UK consumer base.

Product placement has been allowed for more than a month now, and the UK viewing audience certainly seems to have mixed feelings about the new form of marketing. One in four people in the UK are ‘concerned’ about product placement, according to a new study by Marketing Week. One out of five say that they find this form of marketing a distraction and feel that it negatively affects their viewing experience. However, a quarter of UK viewers said that product placement positively impacted their perception of a product. An additional 13 % said that they would be more likely to buy a product after seeing it in product placement, and it is this segment of the UK market that marketers and brands are hoping to reach.

Learning to use product placement in a way that attracts the target audience without alienating them is the challenge facing many marketers and brands in the UK. There will certainly be a learning curve involved as executives struggle to find and maintain this happy medium. However, UK viewers will be made aware of the product placement with the bold P logo designed by Ofcom. This will allow viewers to quickly discern whether they are viewing a programme written for effect or for profit and react accordingly.

One danger of product placement is that it may lose its efficacy. In places such as the United States where it is common, a large section of the viewing audience has become ‘immune’ to the marketing and does not even notice the brands before their eyes. This phenomenon has been seen on the internet as well and is known as ‘ad blindness’.

Can the UK use product placement effectively without interfering with the integrity or attractiveness of television? Only the future will tell how this new advertising medium affects television and brands.