ISBA/NMG Guideline on ‘Product Placement’

27 October 2015
As the latest Bond movie hits our screens, ISBA, in association with NMG Product Placement, has produced timely Guidance, which explains the difference between Product Placement and Prop Placement.-

As the latest Bond movie hits our screens, ISBA, in association with NMG Product Placement, has produced timely Guidance, which explains the difference between Product Placement and Prop Placement.

Product Placement has been allowed in UK produced programmes and films for decades. Under the title “free prop supply” the BBC Producer Guidelines and Ofcom Guidelines permit products to be supplied for inclusion in productions provided no money changes hands and editorial integrity is maintained.

ISBA and its members were heavily involved in the consultations which resulted, in February 2011, in an additional set of Ofcom rules being added. These rules allow advertisers to pay producers of commercial television programmes for product inclusion subject to certain checks and controls. No change was made to the “free prop supply” rules.

Bob Wootton Director of Media and Advertising at ISBA said:

“We hope that the Guidance explains the difference between Prop and Product Placement, both of which offer advertisers the opportunity to place their brands in front of extensive, engaged audiences. Prop Placement tends to offer consistent, background exposure, whereas Product Placement can produce prominent, ‘five star’ positioning.”

As well as detailing the opportunities available, the Guidance explains the restrictions surrounding Prop and Product Placement.”


Notes to Editors:

Ofcom Product Placement Guidelines.

Ofcom’s Guidelines, which do not allow paid for product placement on the BBC, can be found here:

Ofcom renamed “Free Prop Supply” “Prop Placement” and defines paid for product placement as “Product Placement”. The rules cover all commercial television programmes and a full list of these can be found at:

The BBC’s Guidelines on product placement can be found at:

Product Placement is also covered in the ASA’s new vlogging advertising guidance.






What restrictions exist regarding brands that can be placed?

None – except tobacco.

Many restrictions in place: alcohol, any food deemed HFSS, medicines, baby milk, tobacco, gambling are all banned from ‘paid for placement’.

Where can products be shown?

Anywhere including the BBC which accounts for 30% of the UK’s output.

Not allowed on the BBC, additionally in children’s, news, current affairs, consumer affairs and religious programmes on commercial channels.

Signalling to viewer

None required, thus integrations are seamless /natural and avoid negative viewer reactions to “plugs”.

All ‘paid for’ placements must be flagged at the beginning, end and after every commercial break by the “P” sign which can negate the value of the placement and irritate viewers.


What restrictions exist regarding content?

The creative decisions are made independently by the production team.

Appearances are strictly limited by Ofcom regulations – e.g. editorial justification is required and the placement cannot promote the buying of the product. Recent paid for placements, such as the Corinthia Hotel in X-Factor breached Ofcom rules and received extensive negative press.


Set annual figure depending on client’s requirements and the number of brands within portfolio.

Pricing can be ‘opportunistic’

What does this buy?

Access to all British Television, including the BBC all commercial channels AND film. Advice/analysis on ‘paid for’ deals.

Access to one production/series e.g. six episodes, option to develop off screen promotional activities linked to placement (at additional cost).


Is placement guaranteed?

No, however free prop supply with fmcg products normally, delivers an excellent payback / ROI. This method produces the ability to own the medium whilst spreading risk and promoting ubiquity.

Yes – but the exact amount and quality is at the discretion of the production company

Can a brand dominate the medium?

Yes, ‘free prop’ offers the potential, uniquely in marketing to ‘own’ the medium.

No – ‘undue prominence’ is limited by Ofcom regulations, equally a brand may invest in a ‘paid for’ placement only to find they are usurped at a later stage by a competitor with deeper pockets.


Advertiser Considerations

  • A paid for Product Placement can provide an almost guaranteed level of exposure against which all forms of media exploitation can be anchored.
  • Prop Placement does not offer that defined exposure guarantee but can offer wider exposure at a much lower cost. All brands appearing in UK television can be measured and hence can provide data against which advertisers can judge the level and type of exposure likely to result from Prop Placement and estimate an ROI.
  • Products, except tobacco, which are not allowed to pay for product placement, can undertake Prop Placement.
  • Prop Placement accesses BBC productions provided the agency involved is an approved BBC supplier.
  • Prop Placement can be more persuasive than Product Placement since there is no signalling of the placement and the integration can appear subtler.
  • Films produced in the UK do not have any rules regarding product placement excepting tobacco. Whilst paid for product placement occurs in films, the majority of brands appear through Prop Placement. The longer lead times allow an Advertiser to see, and influence the final appearance, whilst planning media exploitation when the film is released.

Whereas “James Bond” is a well known example, the UK’s favourable tax regime for film production means that many major international films are shot here.

Press contact

Hicham Felter

ISBA - The Voice of British Advertisers

Communications Manager


T: 020 7291 9020

M: 07901 528 980

About ISBA – the Voice of British Advertisers

ISBA ( / @isbasays) is the only body focused solely on the interests of advertisers in the UK. With over 450 advertisers in membership representing in excess of £10bn spend on marketing communications, ISBA protects its members’ freedom to advertise responsibly and maximise their effectiveness in deploying their marketing spend.

ISBA is the advertiser member of the UK Advertising Association, and advertisers representative on CAP and BCAP the UK advertising code owning body. We are also active members of the International Chamber of Commerce Advertising and Marketing Commission, and members of the WFA based in Brussels.

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