The size of the product placement market was estimated to be between £9.7m and £29.1m in 2013, according to research from New Media Group, a small percentage of the £4.6bn full-year TV ad market, as estimated by Thinkbox.
However, recent product placement deals between big brands and prime time shows such as Samsung appearing in the X Factor on ITV1, Yeo Valley and Uncle Ben’s in Jamie’s 15-Minute Meals on Channel 4 and Nokia on Hollyoaks on the same channel suggest the market’s growth could pick up apace in the coming months. Previous estimates have suggested the product placement market could be worth up to £120m in the next four or five years.
Product placement’s slow burn
Chris Fuller, associate director at MediaCom, says the noticeable difference between product placement when it was first allowed on TV screens by Ofcom in February 2011 and now is that the quality of placement has improved. He suggests this is possibly due to production companies becoming used to how they integrate such placements, meaning the final result is less clunky on screen.
He adds: “I think all parties expected [product placement] to grow more rapidly initially, but three years is not a long time for something that is still really in its infancy. It’s going to continue to be a slow burn, I guess a bit like TV sponsorship in the early days.
“The one single thing that I believe would accelerate its uptake is a uniform and simpler way to commoditise it.”
Another significant change over the past year has been the increase in research in the product placement area.
Brand case studies could fire up the product placement market
Amazon, for example, struck a deal with Sky for its Kindle Fire to be used by the stars of Sky 1’s Got to Dance. Sky’s research showed viewers exposed were more aware of Kindle – 80 per cent awareness versus 73 per cent of non-viewers following the campaign – and brand consideration was markedly greater – 32 per cent versus 22 per cent.
Channel 4, meanwhile, found that product placement of Nokia Lumia handsets in Hollyoaks has seen the mobile brand’s awareness scores rise over time. Prior to broadcast, spontaneous mentions of models that characters would use for Nokia Lumia were at 5 per cent, but rose to 12 per cent after. While prompted mentions rose from 18 per cent to 31 per cent.
Product placement is also having a significant impact on Nokia’s brand image. Since the Lumia handsets have featured in the show, there has been a 25 per cent uplift in the amount of viewers who said a Nokia phone would be their next choice and more than half said they would like to buy a Nokia Lumia.
Elsewhere, a placement of the Ministry of Sound’s music and branding in ITV 2’s The Only Way is Essex “The Only Way is Marbs” special saw The “Marbella Sessions” album jump from number five to number one in the iTunes chart during the show’s transmission.
Lindsey Clay, CEO of television marketing body Thinkbox, says: “At the time of launch product placement lacked effective case studies. Now all the broadcasters have done robust pieces of research looking at the impact of product placement.
”There is now evidence that product placement works on an implicit level with the unconscious part of your mind, which you have to get at with clever research techniques. But it’s also at the explicit level, as there’s lots of evidence it can improve brand tracking measures, purchase intent and sales.”
More case studies from big brands including Sainsbury’s and Uncle Ben’s are on their way, according to Rob Ramsey, Channel 4 partnership leader, who says this will encourage more brands into the market.
He adds: “Once these big brands come out and say this had an affect on our brand, the momentum will only increase…as soon as people saw what we were doing with Sainsbury’s, [launching the Sainsbury’s sponsored daytime What’s Cooking programme, which features Sainsbury’s products throughout] every supermarket was on the phone asking ‘what can you do for us too?’”
“It not only encourages the brand, but it encourages the talent too. People are seeing what we have been doing with Yeo Valley and Uncle Ben’s and Jamie Oliver or Panasonic and Nigella [on Channel 4’s The Taste] – it stops [other talent] from being unsure.”
The ongoing barriers to entry
Despite an uplift in the past year, there still are advertiser uncertainties towards product placement. MediaCom’s Fuller says long lead times between filming and transmission, the strict nature of Ofcom regulations, positioning within the existing prop placement market and the lack of a uniform trading and evaluation approach have all been cited as continuing barriers to entry.
Channel 4’s Ramsey says the broadcaster has been trying to lower some of these hurdles by taking on an “almost missionary approach” with production companies to make the process between media buy and on-screen placement an easier one.
Just over three years after paid-for product placement first aired in the UK, the market is still very much in its infancy and nowhere near the brash approach taken by US broadcasters and advertisers.
But Thinkbox’s Clay says despite the small size of the UK product placement market relative to other advertising, it is still something marketers should consider adding to their arsenal: “It’s not the holy grail in isolation, but it’s a really significantly helpful tool, especially as part of a wider sponsorship or campaign.”