On 4 January, I went horizontal in a dark room in a bid to expunge the painful memory of a Guardian splash on product placement.
An article that, on a slow news day, whipped up hysteria surrounding the subject. A crazy bandwagon that, perhaps surprisingly, ISBA was all too willing to jump on. I was mildly amused that ISBA chose to express concerns over product placement, mainly because its stance confounded the fools who had assumed that advertisers are weasels attempting to sneak fast food and alcohol into children's lunch boxes.
Yet ISBA's anti-product placement position was worrying. Not because of what it tells us about product placement, an interesting, if miniscule, diversion within the debate over the health of the UK commercial broadcast economy, but because of what it says about advertiser attitudes to media, agencies and broadcasters.
It's easy to see why ISBA is keen to avoid any controversy over product placement at a time when advertisers are attempting to stave off the latest threat to traditional spot advertising in the shape of a pre-watershed ban on alcohol advertising. Yet the trade body seems equally keen that its members continue to pay as little as possible, preferably nothing at all, for media. ISBA's Bob Wootton said: "Advertisers are concerned that the existing low-cost system of prop placement will be closed off and that broadcasters will drive them into more expensive paid-for product placement."
ISBA's support for a shoestring version of product placement should worry both media agencies and broadcasters, both of whom are now well accustomed to penny-pinching from clients who are not content with the best value TV rates on offer for decades. Beyond the basic level of demanding continual savings, advertisers are also constantly pushing for greater transparency and, in many ways, this is a positive force. Yet it seems to be a principle that applies most when it suits the interests of the advertiser. Where, for instance, has fairness and fiscal transparency got to in the case of an advertiser attempting to use a pitch process to impose a move to 120-day payment for media on its agencies?
I'm all for transparency but it should work both ways.
ISBA's call for the continuation of an unofficial market in "prop placement" seems indicative of the attitude of clients who want to be treated openly and fairly themselves but are too often unable to extend the same courtesy to their suppliers. Yes, they are fighting a good fight against ad regulation but they should pay the correct price for the value that TV is currently delivering.