BRANDS ON FILM
DO NOT MAKE PRETTY PIC
Copyright 2001 www.variety.com
[ December 15th2001 ]
plot lines contain plugs for brand name products,
or when logos are prominently visible on screen,
chances are this is the form of stealth advertising
known as product placement. It is a practice estimated
to gain more than dollars 1 billion in revenue
for Hollywood studios trying to raise finance
for high-budget pictures, while for large corporations
gaining exposure alongside screen heroes and heroines
is a valuable and repeatedly used marketing tool.
"dubious and dangerous practice" is how Mr Rod
Stoneman, chief executive of Bord Scannan na hEireann
describes the technique. "Of course, producers
sometimes have to find finance every way they
can but we would be wary of the consequences of
product placement," he says. "Have you seen Castaway?
How much of that was paid for by FedEx ?"
as desert island film Castaway, where washed-ashore
FedEx packages help a FedEx employee played by
Tom Hanks to survive, the international delivery
service brand name has recently starred in Runaway
Bride, Bowfinger and William Shakespeare's Romeo
and Juliet. One of its competitors, UPS, pops
up in the Lara Croft film Tomb Raider, alongside
Sony and Ericsson, while Nokia phones are used
prominently in Charlie's Angels and The Matrix.
production companies may not receive cash payments
for the 'ad', they may be offered promotional
support: In 1997, Ericsson spent dollars 25 million
on a tie-in campaign with the Bond film Tomorrow
Never Dies, running across 57 countries.
placement is as old as Hollywood itself, but since
sales of US confectionary Reese's Pieces shot
up by 65 per cent when it was used to entice the
cute alien out of the wardrobe in E.T., large
corporations have increasingly seized upon product
placement opportunities. Anheuser-Busch and Coca-Cola,
for example, both have inhouse divisions devoted
to getting a little screen time.
while product placement on the big screen may
be viewed by some producers and directors as tacky
commercialism getting in the way of artistic craft,
it is perfectly legal. On the small screen, the
rules change. Product placement is defined as
the display of brands by programme makers in exchange
for payment and it is 'strictly forbidden', according
to the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland's (BCI)
names are still allowed to appear on screen, the
code says, 'as it is not always possible in the
interests of authenticity to avoid references
to the names of commercial products or services
in their incidental portrayal in radio and television
programmes'. Examples of this would include the
chocolate bars in Coronation Street's corner shops
or the billboards surrounding the Albert Square
impossible to do something like a soap opera and
keep it credible without having ordinary brand
names on display,' says Mr Niall Matthews, producer
of RTE's Fair City. 'You can't have an Irish pub
without Guinness on sale. We would stock the shop
and stock the pub with credible brands, because
if we didn't we would have to make them up ourselves."
Kissane, broadcasting manager at the BCI, says
the body has yet to receive any complaints about
undue prominence for branded goods on Irish television.
"We only regulate TV3 but we haven't encountered
any problems in relation to product placement.
Our experience is that it doesn't happen here,
but then there are not too many home-produced
programmes on TV3."
the regulations on product placement in broadcasting
are similar, with Independent Television Commission
codes banning the inclusion of a product or service
in return for payment to the programme maker.
Advertisers are concerned by the development of
TiVo black boxes, which automatically record programmes
without ad breaks or allow viewers to watch the
programme ad-free a few minutes after it goes
to air. But if new technology is creating a drive
for more plugs within programmes, it is also allowing
for more easily manipulated product placement.
US, product placement is not allowed during fictional
programmes when they are first broadcast on network
television but becomes legal when the same programmes
are repeated under syndication deals with cable
channels. This has prompted programme makers to
digitally add products to scenes at a later date:
The first television show to do so was a drama
called Seven Days, which in 1999 digitally added
a Coca-Cola can onto a desk and a billboard advertising
Wells Fargo bank.
Republic, these practices seem a long way off.
Apart from broadcasting regulations, the self-regulated
advertising industry's code states that an advertisement
should be "designed and presented in such a way
that it is immediately apparent that it is an