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Product placement: how it could sound

Coca-Cola Radios Add Life

Since June, the UK regulator Ofcom has been consulting on relaxing the rules that govern commercial communications in radio programming.

In this area, the UK has currently one of the most restrictive broadcasting codes in the world. It allows only spot advertising in discrete breaks (spotsets to you in the US) and sponsorship credits where the commercial partner has no connection to or influence in the content itself.

So you can run a holiday quiz sponsored by Discover Ireland, but not if you ask questions about the beautiful Emerald Isle itself. “You’re gone in the head”, as they say in Dublin.

This restriction, coupled with editorial rules on ‘undue prominence’, have tripped up a number of broadcasters in recent years.

Heart was slapped over the wrist for getting excited about Mamma Mia, the movie and the Big Top 40 Show was prevented from continuing a pioneering interactive voting mechanic with downloads from iTunes.

Now, some of that is set to change with the expectation that Ofcom will allow what’s loosely been termed “product placement”.

This would afford much greater freedom to radio groups to integrate many commercial messages with content. Fundamental principles of transparency and, in some cases, separation would be the main controls.

You can read more about the consultation, the options suggested by the regulator and the responses from radio groups and other interested bodies on the Ofcom website.

Commercial radio is expecting conclusions from the consultation soon and it’s fair to say that it has pretty universal support across the industry. They’re hoping for enhanced revenue streams and new creative opportunities in content creation.

Producers at the BBC I speak to broadly welcome the development too as it will further distinguish their publicly funded programmes as being free from commercial influence.

But what will it sound like?

Well, here’s a first listen to a demo competition intro from Alex Baker at Kerrang! in the West Midlands, courtesy of our friends at Bauer. You may be forgiven for thinking it’s incredible we can’t do this already.

[audio:|titles=Alex Baker at Kerrang! demos sponsored competition]

You can hear more about that and what it could mean for radio stations and listeners in the forthcoming Earshot Creative Review podcast which is due out on Monday.

You can get the podcast via iTunes, a PURE Flow radio, the new PURE Lounge iPhone app or here on the blog.

Photograph: Coca Cola radios add life by the Rocketeer on Flickr. Used under licence.

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