‘Softly, softly’ urges Ofcom on product placement rules

Ofcom is believed to be favouring a “softly, softly” approach to reforming rules regulating product placement, following talks held ahead of a consultation earmarked for later this year.

The move has been welcomed by the television industry.

The independent regulator is launching a consultation on product placement before Christmas, but has been holding informal talks with bodies including the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) Sponsorship group, key advertisers, product placement agencies and broadcasters.

One agency insider says: “There’s been quite a change of thought since [chief executive] Stephen Carter said earlier this year that product placement would have a far lighter regulatory touch.

“Ofcom has now realised that this has potentially created a bit of a Frankenstein’s monster through conversations it has had.”

The regulator has been considering a number of options, including the potential for brands placed in programming being credited, but it is understood to have been surprised by the reluctance of some broadcasters and agencies to adopt US-style rules.

IPA Sponsorship group chairman David Peters (pictured) says: “Ofcom is suggesting that it was looking at a softly, softly approach and would be looking at relaxing the rules a little bit at a time, much akin to how sponsorship was handled when it was introduced.”

Ofcom is not working to a deadline for the changes but broadcasters, including ITV, and agencies are setting up teams to handle the new policies ahead of change.

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