In short, the use of real brands within content is absolutely permitted across all broadcasters. This includes brands being seen, used, demonstrated and referred to, across both commercial and non-commercial channels.
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Prop and Product Placement is a perfectly legal form of marketing communication and has been an important strategy used by hundred brands around the world since television became a mainstream form of media consumption. As with all marketing communications, there are legal restrictions and guidelines in place to protect the content integrity, the brand reputation and the audience’s viewership. Whether a brand is gaining exposure through prop or product placement, there are legal guidelines as set out by Ofcom which have the overall aim of making sure that the brand exposure does not become distracting for the viewer or reduce their attention from the storylines or characters. These guidelines are around subjects including Undue Prominence, Editorial Justification and Notification of Product Placement.
The BBC is a public service broadcaster and strictly non-commercial. Brands are therefore unable to advertise on-screen on any BBC channel by way of spot advertising, ad-funded programming, sponsorship stings or Product Placement. Aside from programme content, the BBC viewing experience comprises purely of programming and promotion for BBC programming, BBC-associated public services/charities or the BBC brand. The only way brands are able to actively gain exposure on BBC programming is by means of Prop Placement. All BBC programmes aside from News programmes are permitted to use brands on screen providing they adhere to Ofcom regulations.
Netflix does not have any advertising on its website, mobile apps or TV apps. Whilst Netflix currently promote their own content (not unlike the BBC), there have never been ads and there is no record of them intending to start advertising to their subscribers. This creates a more premium, exclusive feel to the service and means that the access to content is instant and convenient. Not unlike the BBC, the only thing you will see on Netflix is either the content itself or promotion for content the viewer might enjoy. From a marketing communication point of view, the only way for brands to access non-commercial platforms/channels such as the BBC or Netflix is via Prop Placement or Product Placement.
In general, the brands applicable to Placement is broad with a wide range of categories having had proven effectiveness to date. The only products that are excluded from any sort of placement (i.e. prop or product) include cigarettes, tobacco products, e-cig products, prescription-only medicines, guns and other weapons. Alcoholic drinks, gambling products, off-the-shelf medicines, food and drink that is high in fat, salt, or sugar (HFSS) and baby milk can’t be placed via Product Placement in UK programming, but can be placed via Prop Placement in UK programming adhering to Ofcom guidelines.
Prop Placement is allowed in any programme or film unless it is a news programme or a children’s programme (i.e. made for viewers under 16). Product Placement can access every channel apart from the BBC, however it should be noted that whilst product placement can access a wide variety of programmes, the deal should not influence the content and/or scheduling in a way that affects the responsibility and editorial independence of the broadcaster. There are rules and regulations in place to ensure that the programme integrity shines through.
All channels across Video allow Prop Placement. Some channels are more relevant than others due to the nature of programming they broadcast, however prop placement is legally permitted across everything. Prop Placement is the only form of marketing communication with this breadth of platform and channel accessibility.
Product Placement is legally permitted across every UK channel apart from the BBC. It should however be noted that whilst product placement can access a wide variety of programmes, the deal should not influence the content or scheduling in a way that affects the responsibility or editorial independence of the broadcaster. It is in everyone’s interest to make sure that the brand is integrated effectively, in a non-distracting manner however Ofcom provide regulations and guidelines to ensure neither party, the content nor the audience are disadvantaged.
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