Product placement on TV
Ofcom is responsible for the rules on product placement, including what can and can't be shown on TV screens.
The following gives an overview of these rules and explains how you can tell whether a programme contains product placement.
What is product placement?
Product placement is when a company pays a TV channel or a programme-maker to include its products or brands in a programme.
- a fashion company might pay for a presenter to wear its clothes during a programme
- a car manufacturer might pay for a character to mention one of its cars in a scene in a drama
Product placement in films and international programmes (such as US drama series) has been allowed on UK television for many years.
TV programmes made for UK audiences can contain product placement if they comply with Ofcom's rules.
These rules apply to all programmes broadcast on channels licensed by Ofcom, including some channels that broadcast outside the UK. See a list of licensed channels.
They also apply to BBC UK broadcasting and on demand services funded by the licence fee.
No. Programme-makers also use ‘props', but don't receive payment for including them
Products could also appear in a programme by chance, not because companies have paid for them to be included. For instance, a member of the public interviewed in the street might be wearing clothing that shows a company's logo.
Ofcom's Broadcasting Code contains rules on:
- what type of products can be placed in programmes
- where product placement is allowed
- how placed products can be featured.
These rules are required by both European and UK law.
Product placement is allowed in:
- films (including dramas and documentaries)
- TV series (including soaps)
- entertainment shows
- sports programmes.
Products cannot be placed in news or children's programmes.
They also cannot be placed in religious, current affairs and consumer advice programmes made for UK audiences.
Cigarettes and other tobacco products, along with medicines that are available only on prescription, can't be product placed in any programmes.
Additionally, the following products cant be placed in UK programmes:
- Alcoholic drinks
- Gambling products
- All other types of medicines
- Food and drink that is high in fat, salt, or sugar
- Baby milk
- Products that cant be advertised (such as guns and other weapons)
There must be ‘editorial justification' for a product to be placed in a programme.
That means the product must be relevant to what the programme is about. The content of programmes shouldn't seem to be created or distorted, just to feature the placed products.
Programmes also can't promote placed products or give them too much prominence. There shouldn't be any claims made about how good a placed product is, or so many references to a product that it feels like it's being promoted.
If a UK programme contains product placement, the TV channel must show a special logo.
This tells viewers that the TV channel or programme-maker was paid to include products in that programme.
There are two versions of the logo so that it can be used on light or dark backgrounds.
The logo must be shown:
- at the beginning of the programme
- after any advertising break during the programme
- at the end of the programme.
TV channels don't have to show the logo on programmes that were originally broadcast outside the UK (for example, a US drama series that is then shown in the UK). Any programme that is made to be shown on an Ofcom licensed channel, including those that broadcast outside the UK, must include the product placement logo.