A dangerous reason to fear your TV

Updated on 07 March 2011 | 0 Comments

Fear your TV for this reason and you'd be making a dangerous mistake!

Do you know why you eat Heinz baked beans over any other brand? Or why only Twinings will do when it comes to a cup of English Breakfast? Do you genuinely prefer McVitie’s biscuits over the supermarket own brands, or are you just in the habit of buying them, because you always have? Maybe they’re what your mum used to buy. 

The power of a brand is incredible. Take Heinz Baked Beans for example. They consistently perform poorly in taste tests (last year Which? placed them joint 4th) yet Heinz claims a 70% share of the baked bean market and 2.3m of us tuck in every day. 

Brand society

This behaviour is replicated all over the world of food and drink. Just think about what the supermarket you shop at says about you. 

Or what you would like it to say... 

Food and drink brands are as significant lifestyle choices as the car you drive and where you go on holiday. 

Or your favourite TV show.  And now brands are set to creep into these favourite TV shows, rather than make do with being sandwiched between them. Advertisers have finally won the coup they’ve been plotting since the dawn of marketing – product placement on British TV.

Morning Nescafe

If you blinked last week, you’ll have missed it. But on Monday 28 February the very first paid-for branded product appeared on our screens. It was a foodie item, Nescafe’s Dolce Gusto coffee machine, which Nescafe reportedly paid £100,000 to display behind chef Phil Vickery around midday on This Morning. 

As it happens, I have the very same model at home. Makes ok coffee too. Not a patch on a proper cup, I’m afraid, but more than acceptable for something you don’t have to leave the house for, takes a minute to make and costs about 20p a cup. There, Nescafe, any cash on offer for my great product plug? 

This much-anticipated (and heartily fought over) launch of product placement turned out to be quite the damp squib. Everyone who campaigned against it must have been mightily disappointed to scan the channels for product placement and find almost none. 

Is product placement dangerous?

Should we be afraid? Are we teetering on the last vestige of stable ground before we sail down a one-way slippery slope towards overpowering product placement saturation in all TV programmes, never mind our favourite ones?

Oh come on.  Get over it. We’re already right down there at the bottom anyhow. Brands and ads are so prolific throughout all media that I refuse to get worked up about a few more poxy paid-for plugs. 

I knew that advertising was a filthy game long before I fell into the grips of Mad Men. So really, what are we getting so upset about? It’s not like we’re trying to save Britain’s last high street from getting a Tesco Metro. That would be worth fighting for. 

The rules

What’s more, there are rules governing the product placement. It’s not going to be a free-for-all, with cans of Stella all over Cbeebies. 

The products will only pop up on commercial channels (yes, those channels already full of ads); a little ‘P’ will be displayed on the screen to remind us that we are in the grip of marketing at these times; food products high in salt, sugar, saturated fat etc are strictly forbidden, as is product placement directed at children. 

Yes, it can be annoying when advertisers try and claw their way into more and more of our daily space. But you’re watching TV for chrissakes. It’s not real. If some sucker of a producer will take money to feature alcopops in his Second World War drama, that’s his call. 

One of the biggest product placement gigs in the US is the American Idol judges drinking Coca-Cola from glasses of Coca-Cola throughout the show. What would we expect them to drink, if not an ice cold Coke? Pints of Old Speckled Hen all round? 

I appreciate that the power of brands over children can be pretty frustrating for parents, but in the case of the new product placement it’s only going to kick in when they’re watching grown up telly. 

As long as the product placement is kept to commercial channels, it should be possible to contain it.

In my opinion, if you fear your TV for this reason, you'd be making a dangerous mistake.

I’ll only start to worry when I see Paxman eating a Wispa as the Newsnight credits roll. How about you? Let us know your thoughts using the comments box below!

Also worth your attention: 

Mat Follas’s pancakes 

The Hairy Bikers ride again 


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