Products put in their place on Irish TV
TELEPRINTER:MUCH OF THE advertiser-funded programming on Irish television wouldn’t be allowed in Britain because the regulator there takes a tougher line on the practice, according to a Channel 4 executive.
“AFP [advertiser funded programming] works better here, because you’re able to weave the brands into the stories better,” Channel 4’s director of sales Jonathan Allan told the Redefining TV event organised by the advertising agency Carat Ireland last week.
“In the UK, it has to be completely passive,” he said. “Ofcom is very strict and we sometimes skirt too close to the regulations and get a slap on the wrist.”
Advertiser-funded programming is the umbrella term used in the industry for practices including product placement, sponsorship, naming rights and, more recently, the creation of programmes in consultation with advertisers from scratch.
Although paid product placement used to be banned on Irish TV on the grounds it constituted surreptitious advertising, the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland gave the go-ahead to the practice for certain programme genres last year in line with a relaxation of EU rules.
The two highest profile examples of advertiser-funded programming on Irish TV have been TV3’s the Apprentice, where brand involvement in the format’s weekly tasks for contestants predated the relaxation of product placement rules, and the opening last November of a Spar shop in Carrigstown, the fictional Dublin suburb in RTÉ’s soap Fair City.
Adrian Lynch, managing director of Animo Television, which co-owns formats such as Celebrity Bainisteoir and Anonymous, told the Carat conference that the practice in Irish programme-making was a growing trend.
“Of the 12 series we are producing this year, five of them have advertiser funding and, in some cases, we’re dealing directly with the brand, not their agency.”
RTÉ’s new 16-part movie show, produced by Animo, will include some “brand favourability”, he said, while Animo’s recently aired six-part series The Gathering – Homeward Bound was part-funded by The Gathering Ireland 2013.
“I would say in terms of AFP, there are no rules,” Lynch says. However, it helps to have “truly cross-platform commissioning” and landmark television properties that include “strong story-telling that offers emotional engagement”.
In content-based messages, the brand is “mostly concealed”, he adds. “Programmes are not adverts and viewers have a different expectation when they sit down.”
RTÉ Television’s commercial director Geraldine O’Leary says RTÉ has “an AFP list” for programme ideas. “We have an AFP list, as we call it, where all the commissioners come to the meeting and say, ‘We want to make this programme – do you have a brand that has synergy with it?’ ”
RTÉ has signed a deal with Bank of Ireland for the fifth series of Dragon’s Den, which will be on screen in March 2013.
“The stings you see on air are only a microcosm of what Bank of Ireland does for Dragon’s Den,” says O’Leary, pointing to the “multi-layers” of the bank’s involvement in the programme.
“Bank of Ireland are not just the sponsor of Dragon’s Den, they are the advertiser funder of Dragon’s Den.”