Who put that there? Coffee and shortbread anyone?

Who put that there? Coffee and shortbread anyone?

The first piece of product placement to take place on a UK TV programme happens today (28 Feb). A breakfast TV show has been paid to include a particular coffee machine on the set.

But what is all the fuss about? Hasn't PR been doing this for years? It reminded me of all the fuss about an episode of the BBC Radio 4 soap The Archers. This long running show recently had a plot line where the Duchess of Cornwall was to visit the local hotel.

She was going there because there was a fictional meeting of the National Osteoporosis Society (NOS) of which she is president. The NOS website carries a story about how she was on The Archers to promote their cause.

HOWEVER - in the run up to her appearance, the plot also featured a conversation about what food would be served and there was mention of Duchy of Cornwall shortbread, made by her husband of course. Crumbs, or rather - oh dear. (Leaving the biscuit puns to one side for a moment.) There was such a fuss. But why did nobody make a fuss about mentions of the NOS?

Where is the line between product placement and PR - why was the biscuit considered to be wrong but the charity OK? Is the public able to make a distinction between what is an editorial/programme-maker judgment and what is paid for? Does it matter?