Alcohol, 'junk' food and gambling sectors face block on product placement

LONDON - Alcohol, 'junk' food and gambling are among the sectors facing a blanket ban on using product placement under plans being made by culture secretary Ben Bradshaw, it emerged today (4 February).

Originally, the government had proposed banning product placement in children's programming, while giving brands a free rein outside this sector.

However, in a letter to Cabinet colleagues, Bradshaw has called for alcoholic drinks, food high in salt, fat or sugar, gambling, smoking accessories, over-the-counter medicines and baby food to be prohibited from running product placement campaigns.

The new restrictions around product placement before it has even come into force will frustrate some marketers and commercial broadcasters, notably ITV, which had anticipated the undiluted move could generate an additional £140m a year.

The U-turn appears to be in response to pressure from cabinet members such as health secretary Andy Burnham, the previous culture secretary, and environment secretary Hilary Benn.

Burnham was said to have been annoyed that Bradshaw had given product placement the green light, just a year after he had ruled it out during his time at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

A number of organisations, including the British Medical Association, campaign group Sustain and the National Union of Teachers, have also raised concerns about the move.

Portman Group chief executive David Poley welcomed today's news: "Our advice to government was that allowing product placement for alcohol was fraught with risk. Some drinks companies could use it to bypass the strict advertising controls," he said.

Gary Pope, director of children's marketing agency Kids Industries, commented: "From the perspective of protecting our children, banning the ‘nasties' throughout the day was the only thing to do. It is simplistic to suggest that children simply watch programming explicitly targeting them."

This view was broadly endorsed by Paul Frampton, managing director of Havas' media agency MPG, who called today's restrictions "fairly predictable". He added: "What they have excluded I would actually agree with, and I don't think it's a huge area of concern.

"The vast majority of the clients [advertisers] we envisage being the early adopters in product placement operate in FMCG and Entertainment. It will give us as an agency more options to feed into them and should bring more money into the market."

A DCMS spokeswoman declined to comment on the contents of the letter, but said an announcement would be made shortly on the final decision.

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