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I t is official : product placement is the new TV advertising. An article in a recent issue of The Economist pointed out that in the hit TV show Lost, some of the characters spend an extraordinarily long amount of time trying to break in to a Zero Halliburton case. In the end, they can't open it until they find the key. That's a terrific brand message.

To confirm the theory that placing branding inside TV shows and films is the only way to ­defeat ad-­skipping technology, L'Oréal has just signed a major deal with the Weinstein brothers, founders of the film company Miramax. They're about to launch a new film studio, and L'Oréal's brands will get privileged placement in its films. L'Oréal will provide all the beauty products used on set and its brands will ­feature prominently in the ­movies themselves.

It's no secret that we're heading back to the days when drama series were sponsored by detergent brands - hence the expression « soap opera ». But in the 21st century, a more subtle approach is required. In one scene from the recent film Mr&Mrs Smith, Angelina Jolie takes a lingering look at her Tissot watch. On a cinema screen, the brand is about six feet wide - and it's up there for a long time. I thought we'd progressed beyond the days when James Bond was forced to crash his car into trucks carrying Coca-Cola. Just ­because product placement is a different medium, the rules of advertising still apply : ­consumers are sophisticated, and brands need to treat them that way.

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