Product placement ban on British TV lifted

American Idol judges Advertisers in the US pay millions of dollars to place their products in films and TV programmes

A ban on product placement has been lifted, allowing advertisers to pay for their goods to be seen on British TV.

Paid-for references to products and services are now permitted for the first time in shows produced in the UK, including soaps and one-off dramas.

The first product, a Nescafe coffee machine, has appeared on This Morning.

The Church of England and doctors' leaders have opposed the move, saying it could damage trust in broadcasters and promote unhealthy lifestyles.

Under Ofcom regulations, broadcasters must inform viewers by displaying the letter 'P' for three seconds at the start and end of a programme that contains product placement.

The telecoms regulator has said any placement must be editorially justified and not unduly prominent.

It will not be allowed in news, current affairs or children's programmes - or for alcoholic drinks and foods high in salt, sugar and fat.

Placement logo
  • No paid product placements on BBC, children's, news, current affairs, consumer affairs and religious programmes
  • Banned products include gambling services; food and drink high in salt, fat and sugar; tobacco; medicines; alcohol; baby milk; weapons; and escort services

And it will continue to be banned for BBC shows.

In the United States, advertisers such as Coca-Cola and Apple pay millions of dollars to place their products in films and TV programmes.

When the European Union lifted its ban on such payments, there was heated debate over whether it should be allowed in productions made in the UK.

Commercial broadcasters and independent producers argued it would help pay for programmes.

But Church leaders were among those who said it could damage trust and promote unhealthy lifestyles.

The last Labour government eventually gave the go-ahead, but only after setting out strict limitations.


  • I work in the television industry in Spain. It is not uncommon to see an actor reach for a jar of coffee from an immaculately erected pyramid of ten jars of the product. It is pointless trying to prevent an inevitable next step in generating revenue, but I just hope UK broadcasters don’t lose sight of doing it in as seamless and dignified a way as possible in respect to the art and the viewer.

  • I've no problem with this at all. Ultimately, we've all been exposed to product placement in films already anyway, and 'undue prominence' rules will mean you probably haven't noticed. You can't have someone turning to the camera, holding a can saying "Drink Coke!" a la Truman Show for example.

    As for everyone saying this is the Tories' fault, read the article for God's sake. Labour did this.

  • I'm really not bothered one way or the other. If a TV character picks up a branded box of teabags or bottle of shampoo...what's the problem? There are a lot of things going on in the world right now which are on my radar; product placement is NOT one of them.

  • Programmes such as "The Sweeney" and "The Professionals" definitely used product placement - the goodies always drove Fords (Granadas and Capris) and the baddies always drove British Leyland (usually Jags)... Ford used to provide as many as they wanted for free, knowing that all losses would be recouped...

  • Far from being a useful alert, the big 'P' will mean that, instead of watching the programme, we'll now spend our time trying to spot products which are "... editorially justified and not unduly prominent." There's nothing intrinsically wrong with advertising but product placement is a particularly sneaky way to communicate and an unwelcome addition to the subliminal influences which assail us.


Comments 5 of 11


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