Toyota, Renault and other carmakers are financing TV programmes rather than just TV commercials. The two are among the pioneers from a range of industries that are experimenting with advertiser-funded programming to get their messages to cut through a world cluttered with too many ads on too many TV channels, Automotive News Europe reported.

Advertiser-funded programming is neither traditional sponsorship nor product placement -- paying originators to use products in programmes, such as having characters drive specific cars. Product placement isn't even allowed in advertiser-funded programming in many European countries.

In advertiser-funded programming, a marketer meets with a programme producer and has input into the series before filming begins. Although the advertiser doesn't have editorial control, it can influence the general themes and topics so that they reflect the image the marketer wants to project.

The advertiser gains from using an advertising medium that viewers can't switch off as they do commercials, and the broadcaster gets free or subsidised programming.

For example, Renault is mounting its first advertiser-funded programming project on three digital TV channels owned by UKTV. The series "Scenic Days Out" consists of 16 two-minute films that feature tourist spots that families can visit in a day. UK broadcasting rules won't allow the programme to feature a Renault car, but the brand is featured in the credits and in the programme's name as part of the packaged brokered by media specialist Carat.

Several media planners at media-buying companies who work for rival car brands wondered whether enough people are viewing "Scenic Days Out" on the digital channels, but praised how Renault is integrating the programming with a magazine campaign and a conventional TV campaign.

One of the oldest advertiser-funded programmes is the "Toyota World of Wildlife." Launched in Europe six years ago, the series is seen today in 130 countries.

It's also cost effective. Toyota totally funds the half-hour programmes, which it gives to broadcasters at no cost in exchange for sponsorship credits and an agreed number of free advertising slots during the programme. The broadcaster can sell other ad slots, as long as they are not to rival carmakers.