Saturday, March 13, 2010

"in no way is this advertisers forcing something on poor old producers"

Thinkbox's lovely Tess Alps (who I should say I have know for years now, and has been incredibly generous in providing me with free dinners and the Blue Kitten with various toys, clothes etc) originally left this comment on the post but it's worth moving to a post of its own, I think.

A quick catch-up on my opinions on the introduction of product placement, or 'PP' available here, in an article I recently wrote for the Western Morning News

Tess says:

Hello everyone,

Too late I'm sure to catch people with a few comments, but what the heck.

James knows me very well but I should probably make it clear to you all that my job is to promote the benefits of TV advertising - on all platforms, linear and on-demand. I like my job in part because I like to think of myself helping to bring more money to TV to make better programmes - and to keep James in honest employment*.

Are advertisers moving away from TV? Depends what you mean. TV has actually increased its share of total advertising (including all forms of online& search etc) over the last two years, but sadly it's been at a time when total advertising has been hit very hard.

In 2008 total advertising declined by 4.9% and TV by 2.9%. In 2009 we think that total advertising declined by nearly 13% and TV declined by just under 10%. Traumatic for everyone in the TV industry but actually a dream compared to the print industry where declines of over 20% were the norm.

The question is will advertising bounce back? There is definitely a long-term structural trend away from display ads (eg online banners, TV spots, posters etc) towards techniques like email marketing where advertisers can just use their databases and disintermediate any professional medium on- or off-line.

However, so far this year TV advertising is increasing strongly, albeit from a very poor 2009 base, and we're seeing nearly 20% increases in April and May which would recoup all the losses of 2008 and 2009.

The real difficulty for programme budgets is that, while total linear TV viewing has never been as high, and about 35% more ads are being seen (at normal speed) compared to 10 years ago, it's spread across more channels.

ITV1, Channel 4 and Five have lower shares of both viewing (like BBC1 & 2) and money; they were the channels which commissioned the majority of UK original production in the commercial sector. However digital switchover is nearly complete and it's very likely that their shares will stabilise at that point.

My shareholders have diverse attitudes to product placement; ITV is the most enthusiastic simply because they make a lot of their own programmes. Others, like C4 and Sky are more equivocal about it. The people who are opposed to it include people like you, who object from a moral and aesthetic position. But there are also plenty of opponents who don't share your sensibilities but who believe that a) it won't generate much money from a lot of effort b) PP doesn't work anyway for brands c) it will just divert money from TV spot advertising so there will be no net gain. The body which represents British advertisers is opposed to paid PP, it might surprise you to learn (EDIT: my bolding, not Tess's), and the most enthusiastic champion is PACT which represents all the independent production companies. So in no way is this advertisers forcing something on poor old producers.

Sorry to have gone on at absurd length. If you want more facts about TV you might like to have a look at our website some time.

Tess does make some very good points - it's certainly worth pointing out that a lot of advertisers do seem to be rather puzzled at PP being brought in so enthusiastically by elements of the government and the television industry. Any enthusiasm they might have might have had has certainly lessened considerably since fast food, alcohol and gambling were taken out of the equation, undoubtedly a good thing, but makes the introduction of PP even more pointless and frustrating from the writers' point of view.

PP has already had an impact on my writing - a couple of scenes for various shows have already been rewritten because they mentioned specific brand names. They've now been changed to something more generic, because if viewers even had the slightest suspicion the brand had been mentioned because money had changed hands rather than, say, because something about the rhythm of the name of a particular chocolate bar, or high street clothing store or whatever, the joke would be ruined.

So yes, I am in no doubt that the responsibility for this lies far more with certain television producers than it does with advertisers. And I'm fairly sure this has far more to do with makers of reality television than, say, drama or comedy, but I'm willing to be corrected if this is not, in fact, the case.

Interesting footnote: the most successful brand on American television, far outstripping anyone else, don't pay a cent for product placement...

"Apple Gets a Big Slice Of Product-Placement Pie"

* Smack The Pony and Green Wing's biggest advertisers? Diet Coke, and tampons.


Mike Booth said...

"Apple said it does not pay for product placement and would not discuss how its products make their way into television and films."

They might not pay in cash, but they must pay somehow (in hardware, I imagine). Or are all Hollywood producers just Apple cultists?

James Henry said...

Well, they probably are rabid Apple fanboys, but reading between the lines, Apple probably make it very easy for producers to get hold of Apple products to put in their shows, if they want. The same happens a lot, and although it's 'stealth' PP in a way, it's a lot better than insisting brands get mentioned in the scripts - and there are other limits to how overt it can be, so it's not something I have too much problem with, to be honest.

Tim Footman said...

Just been watching the new Lady Gaga/Beyonce video, with the sledgehammer PP for Virgin mobile. Effectively, advertising one thing within an advert for something else. (I know people make big aesthetic claims for music promos, but they're still adverts, aren't they?)

How far can that go? Tampax paying for PP within a Diet Coke ad?

patroclus said...

A tampon that has 'Diet Coke' written through it like a stick of rock, being placed by Tampax into a Diet Coke ad. The ad is then written on to a million USB keys which are given away free with every packet of Tampax. Mmm, multiplatform.