A Twitter buddy of mine this week posed the following question:

Would you use [product placement] to fund / part finance a film?

Followed closely by this Tweet, which makes no secret which way he’s leaning.

All this is, of course, highly appropriate just now with the UK about to start allowing product placement for the first time.1

I do think product placement has a place in helping to fund the TV and film industry over here. Apart from anything else, who are we to turn down sources of funding to get things made – not just for us but, potentially, more and better off-the-wall, risky TV drama and other formats it may help fund?

The issue for me always comes with the compromise that a filmmaker or an artist has to accept in order to allow for product placement.  If you have to change elements of your script to accommodate a product you need to take a long, hard look at the reasons behind it and not fool yourself that it’s a “creative” decision.

That’s not to say all changes in the name of placement are a bad thing2 but I would always shy away from placement-based rewrites that affected anything more than a passing glance or irrelevant detail.

The key decider for any product placement-based changes has to be this: if someone were offering you the same sum of money without a product to push, would you make the changes they’re suggesting just because they’re giving you the cash?

If the answer’s “yes” then either a) they’re surprisingly good story analysts and you struck luck or b) you’re a sell-out and I wish you a long and happy career.  Just don’t fool yourself into thinking you’re making great art as you pander to the the money-men’s whims.

It’s entirely possible to incorporate product placement in a creative and ethical way, but we should all beware of those people who will become slaves to the product, rather than serving their story.

Some other posts you might like:

  1. The BBC have got a great article on it and its perceived impact here []
  2. you wouldn’t see a huge amount of harm in switching a character’s car from a Ford to a Seat, for instance, as long as it says the same things about his life, social status etc []