James Bond drives an Aston Martin, Sex and the City's Carrie Bradshaw totters around in a pair of Manolo Blahniks, and characters in the Chinese version of Ugly Betty have 'Lipton tea breaks'. Product placement is hard to avoid.
The business is also potentially very lucrative, accounting for about five per cent of advertising in the US. Executed badly, however, product placement can alienate audiences and destroy trust.
The most important rule is that the product must fit its placement. Virgin Atlantic comms director Paul Charles, who managed product placement for the airline on Bond movies Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, said it was imperative for PROs to read the entire script to ensure the product was set in the context of the rest of the programme.
'Someone once suggested a Virgin Atlantic plane appear in a film set in 1918,' he said.
He added: 'Make sure you stretch the opportunity and tie in placement with a wider campaign. If you work with a great team, the placement can be a fantastic brand-building opportunity.'
Tonic Life CEO Scott Clark advised PROs to update their contact books. 'In practical terms, PROs may need to start adding programme writers to our traditional journalist targets,' he said.