Not content with being allowed to place products on television and in films since last year, the advertising and TV/movie industry is now teaming up to retrofit products into films made long ago.
The technology is simple. The motivation is enormous. The artistic integrity is dubious. The possibilities of messing with historical truth are horrific.
But the advert is king, these days.
This comes about because increasingly viewers are recording favourite programmes and when they watch them back, skip all the ads. It is not possible to do that if the ad is, in effect, placed within a scene.
Apparently a can of Tresemme hair spray was inserted into a recent episode of Britain and Ireland’s Next Top Model after the programme was shot, and as if it had been there casually placed on the dressing room table all along. For months now the practice has been creeping from Sky and Discovery Channels into more mainstream viewing.
Others will quickly follow. It will soon be obvious which car, paint, supermarket, holiday has sponsored at least part of a show, just by watching it. No need to wait for the regular ad breaks, or the sponsorship announcement at start.
In the USA, way ahead of the UK on this habit, product placement is an industry worth $2.3 billion a year. As many as 6000 brands can appear in a single series of a popular show!
- Is it any different from ad breaks?
- Have the advertisers who pay large sums to sponsor programmes, a right to stop us escaping their messages?
- Do they have the same right to keep popping up their ads across our internet screens? Or to identify us soon as we enter supermarkets and make personal recommendations?
- Is it the same as cold-calling, door-stepping, flyers blitzed through the post….?
A forthcoming documentary, The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, will make satirical fun of product placement, in the hope of getting some sort of consumer backlash against it. However, the Chief Executive of MirriAd, a British digital placement company, reckoned that brands are now a part of life and so it was ‘natural for shows to include them’.
We have become so reliant on products, we can’t do without them even for a few minutes!
Sunday Times, Robin Henry, 9 October 2011.
Photo: Jorge Barrios