Last night’s episode of Media Watch tackled the rise of digital product placement on TV networks and whether it breaches the Commercial Television Code of Practice.
Seven’s use of MirriAd technology allows them to place products, logos and commercial advertising into our dramas, post-production. It’s already been used in shows like Packed to the Rafters and Winners and Losers, probably without you even realising it. Last year Nine also announced a similar post-production programme for advertisers.
But do these strategies comply with the Code of Practice?:
Where a licensee receives payment for material that is presented in a program or segment of a program, that material must be distinguishable from other program material…
— Commercial Television Code of Practice, January, 2010
Seven does run its commercial arrangements in that tiny print you see squeezed into the bottom of the credits, but is it really enough for the viewer to discern?
As Jonathan Holmes noted, “…surely the whole point of product placement is that ideally it’s not distinguishable from the rest of the program?”
When we asked Seven about digital product placement three weeks ago, they responded bluntly:
“We comply with the Code of Practice and all applicable laws”
Professor Elizabeth Handsley of Flinders University told Media Watch the scene would be open to interpretation but
“…the conclusion would be that the scene breaches the Code.”
Presumably, the question doesn’t get back to how the advertisement / product was inserted -whether real or via the latest wiz-bang CGI inventions. Both real and non-real product placement challenge whether the viewer is able to distinguish between other programme material.
That gets back to Holmes’ point that the very notion of product placement is fundamentally at odds with this section of the Code, and not the methodology itself.
In such cases ACMA would be the umpire about such interpretation, however ACMA is unable to act until a complaint is formally lodged, first with a network then with the governing body itself.
But damn I sure feel like a Coke…..