Sometimes I hear people say “I don’t see the problem with product placement”.
The argument most often given, is that by placing products into a show, we give it a sense of realism that it wouldn’t otherwise have had. In soaps, for example, it’s claimed that the characters asking for a “pint of beer” is unrealistic, because everyone asks for a brand. Well, ignoring the fact that you can’t place beer in a TV show, because of the OFCOM rules, why does it detract from the drama. If someone asking for a beer, rather than a Carlsberg, is distracting you from the show, then there is a wide problem. Either your attention span is too short, or the show isn’t engaging you.
But what people don’t realise is that that, when you allow product placement, what you open yourself up to, is this:
In that clip, an advert for a car dominates a whole scene. There are big shots of the logo, there are glamorous shots of the product and, worse still, the main characters have a discussion about the car. But not a discussion that fits in to the story, but they read script lines that were prepared by an advertiser.
That doesn’t add realism, it’s an advert in your TV show. Would you tolerate that in any other medium? What if your favourite fiction book was peppered with dialogue that Ford or Apple had paid to be inserted?
Accepting product placement in TV might seem fine now, but we always end up down the same route as the Americans sooner or later. And look where they are now.