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Product Placement – Act Now

January 5, 2010

Something has changed. What was once unacceptable in the UK is about to become acceptable. Unless we can change the government’s view, the adverts are about to creep into the programmes themselves. And why the change? Have children suddenly become more resilient to constant advertising? Has turbo-consumerism receded? No. The change is due to recession. Money is tight, so consumerism will be allowed yet another stealthy advance. 

Until this Friday, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport is consulting on plans to fulfil its aim (‘to improve quality of life for all’) by relaxing the rules on product placement. If, like me, you have doubts about this. Please register them at (you can view the full consultation doc here).

As The Guardian pointed out today, the BMA is against the plan, as is the National Union of Teachers, Which?, the British Heart Foundation and the Children’s Food Campaign. None of these bodies are convinced that the safeguards being proposed are adequate. All of them are concerned about the impact on children and young people would be significant (Ofcom figures show that children mostly view ‘adult’ programmes such as soaps and X-Factor, so excluding ‘children’s programming’ from the legislation would make no difference). 

The BMA’s response is telling:

The BMA is deeply concerned about the decision to allow any form of product placement in relation to alcohol, gambling, and foods high in fat, sugar or salt as this will reduce the protection of young people from harmful marketing influences and adversely impact on public health. By its nature product placement allows marketing to be integrated into programmes, blurring the distinction between advertising and editorial, and is not always recognisable. Studies show that children are particualrly susceptible to embeded brand messages and these operate at a subconscious level.

They’re absolutely right. Send and email to the DCMS, sign the Downing Street petition. Let’s safeguard the airwaves, call a halt to consumer creep, and keep Coke off the X Factor!

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