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Ofcom failing to let consumers know about product placement on TV

Friday, May 22nd 2015 by Dean Reilly

Just 14% of TV viewers know when products are being placed in TV programmes by advertisers, new research has revealed.

The UK audience attitudes to the broadcast media report from telecoms regulator Ofcom found that less than 2 in 10 people recognised that a ‘P’ symbol shown at the start, end or either side of a commercial break indicates product placement on a TV show.

The symbol, intended to alert viewers to the fact that programme-makers had been paid to include products in a programme, first appeared on British TV screens in February 2011.

It was shown during ITV1's This Morning show, and was used because of the presence of a Nescafe Dolce Gusto coffee machine, visible over the shoulder of a TV chef.

Two thirds of adult viewers (67%) told Ofcom they were not aware of the ‘P’ symbol.

The telecoms regulator also found that the older the respondent, the less likely it was that they would be aware of the ‘P’ symbol.

74% of viewers aged between 55 to 64 were unaware of the product placement alert, while 79% of those aged 65 and over and did not know about the symbol.

There was no significant difference in levels of awareness between genders or socio-economic groups.

Rules and guidelines

One in five adult viewers – 19% – told Ofcom they had spotted the symbol on television, but were unable to correctly identify exactly what it represented.

Under current Ofcom guidelines, product placement is allowed in films, TV series, entertainment and sports programmes, but not in news or children's shows.

Similarly, product placement is now allowed in programmes with a religious, current affairs or consumer focus.

Ofcom also found that awareness of general TV regulation was higher than that of product placement.

Around 8 in 10 (82%) UK adults correctly said that TV programmes are regulated, and knew that there were rules and guidelines about what could and couldn’t be shown.

Adults aged 35 and over were found to be the most aware of TV regulation, with 85% of those sampled correctly answering questions on the subject.

16 to 34 year olds were marginally less aware, with 76% knowing about TV regulation.

However most UK adults were not aware exactly how programmes are regulated, or by who. Two-thirds (65%) either gave the wrong answer or admitted they didn’t know.

The study was conducted for Ofcom by research agency Saville Rossiter-Base. Respondents were interviewed face-to-face in their homes.

The interviews took place in May, June, August and November 2014, with a total of 2,074 UK adults aged 16 and over participating in the research.

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