Product placement comes to British programming

It’s been a long time coming, but most British couch potatoes will be wondering what all the fuss was about as product placement finally made its belated appearance on TV screens.

Nescafe became the first to take advantage of the new form of advertising when it paid £100,000 ($162,000) to have its Dolce Gusto coffee machine placed in ITV1′s daytime show “This Morning” on Monday.

There were fears from local critics of product placement, which was greenlit by the previous government after the European Union relaxed advertising rules, that editorial integrity would be undermined.

But commentators agreed that the plug for the coffee machine was executed with typical British understatement.

To alert auds that product placement is taking place, a small pink letter “p” is shown on program credits at the start of each part of the show after commercial break.

It now remains to be seen how much new advertising coin can be generated by product placement and whether future placements will be as discrete as the Nescafe coffee maker.

Ofcom, the U.K. watchdog that is regulating product placement, estimated that the market will be worth about £30 million ($49 million) a year, but advertising industry mavens up that to $244 million.

When product placement was given the go-ahead, webs such as ITV and Channel 4 were suffering the worst downturn in advertising income in living memory.

Last year, the ad market rebounded. Later this week, ITV is expected to announce a bumper set of annual results.

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