The company says that it spoke to a “variety of companies” about its plans, including its media agency, Mindshare, but did not hold a traditional competitive pitch.
Unilever communications and buying manager Richard Brooke says it felt it needed a specialist agency to handle the business.
“We need to learn about this as it is based and built on relationships with people and studios,” says Brooke.
The agency has started work with Unilever and the first products are expected to appear in shows by Easter. Brooke adds that there is a “mutual need” between programme makers and brand owners because TV should reflect real life and the brands that people use.
Brooke says that the agency does not have “an open-ended contract” and he expects product placement to add value to the business over a measurable period of time.
The rules governing product placement are due to be relaxed after the Euro-pean Parliament passed the Audiovisual Media Services directive.
It will be introduced in the next two years and will allow broadcasters to make revenue from product placement. At present, product placement agencies do exist, but it is still a heavily regulated area.