Who’s the biggest breakout star of CBC-TV’s lineup? Answer: TD Canada Trust. This fall, thanks to a new product-placement deal, the bank will appear in episodes of CBC’s Being Erica, Little Mosque on the Prairie and Heartland.
Long a staple of American broadcasting, product placement is still relatively rare in Canada, says Scott Moore, CBC’s general manager of media sales and marketing. As a trusted home of Canadian content, the network provides a “unique advantage” to advertisers.
Indeed, the CBC is relying on such deals more than ever: revenue from product integration has increased 10 times over the past two years, and should continue to grow. And so, this season on Little Mosque, expect to see the new reverend in town pay a visit to his local branch to see if he can afford to throw a party; on Being Erica, Anthony will be managing a TD bank.
Critics are lamenting the commercialization of Canada’s public broadcaster. Product placement threatens to undermine the CBC’s role, says Ryerson University’s Jeffrey Dvorkin. Ian Morrison, spokesperson for the independent watchdog Friends of Canadian Broadcasting, worries that product placement on the CBC could “discourage support for taxpayer funding of public broadcasting in Canada.”
But the broadcaster might just have to take that risk. Although it receives over $1 billion in government funding each year, “in real dollar terms, we’ve lagged behind inflation,” Moore says. “We can either believe in the tooth fairy, and that the government will give us more money, or we can find ways to support what we think is important cultural work in Canada,” he adds. “That means finding new funding streams.”