Disturbing news from this week’s Economist. The EU has recently granted approval to the Audiovisual Media Services Directive which removes many of the current restrictions placed on television product placement (which up to now has been illegal in many European countries).
I can understand the rationale. Product placement in TV shows isn’t illegal in the US, and the television industry over there earns $1.5 billion a year from it. And of course, showing US TV shows in Europe – product placement and all – isn’t illegal (though many wish it was). So you can see why European broadcasters want a piece of the action.
I can’t stand product placement. Some of the stuff in films has become so blatant (for example that utterly crap bit of Casino Royale where James Bond has to drive the Ford Mondeo) that I find it a real intrusion on the film itself. That’ll teach me for watching such dross, I suppose. But the idea of product placement in TV shows does worry me.
Many of the current style of TV shows would naturally suit themselves to product placement. In fact, two of the shows I watched last night would suit themselves perfectly. Sarah Beeny’s property one…”Lovely fixtures and fittings…it’s amazing what IKEA turns out these days…” and Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares…”Nice pan Gordon”…”Yes, it’s one of my own fuckers. Fucking lovely. Better than that fucking Tefal shite that Oliver punts. Mockney twat.”
Doesn’t bode well, does it?
Even worse, as The Economist points out, is the chance that governments might enter the fray. One of the product placement companies quoted in the article “is in talks with several European government agencies about using television to promote not products, but behaviour.”
The new series of Spooks…(Sir) Harry Pearce: “Adam, there’s a splinter group of renegade Cornishmen loose on the streets of London armed with any number of jumbo pasties. If we don’t reach them soon, this could lead to an outbreak of obesity the likes of which this country’s never seen. I want you to get over there now. Don’t forget to fasten your seatbelt.”
And of course I can’t ever read anything about product placement without thinking about this bit in Wayne’s World. Genius.