Elizabeth Arden has found a loophole in US rules on ads, Richard Cook
Aficionados of US game-shows will be familiar with the bizarre roll-
calls that play over the end credits of their favourite half-hours. The
rich timbre of the voiceover man can be heard winding them up by listing
all the companies that have donated prizes.
This is not, in fact, the latest in no-frills advertising messages but a
requirement of the Federal Communications Commission. All US producers
are required to disclose on-air whenever a show names a product in
return for payment. Which means that the voiceover man should earn
overtime on the evening of 26 February when Elizabeth Taylor will make
guest appearances in four consecutive prime-time CBS shows.
A consistent storyline runs through each programme. In the first, The
Nanny, a priceless black pearl necklace is lost en route to the location
where a commercial for the new Elizabeth Arden perfume range is being
shot. The jewels reappear in the second, are stolen again in the third
and reunited with Taylor in the final programme, High Society. By the
end of the evening, sitcom fans will be well acquainted with the story
of Taylor and her black pearls. They can then renew the acquaintance by
purchasing the new Elizabeth Taylor’s Black Pearls perfume, manufactured
by the cosmetics giant, Elizabeth Arden.
If this example of product placement seems too blatant even for US TV,
that’s probably because it is. However, as Elizabeth Arden is not paying
for the endorsement and has not bought slots around the shows, the
exercise doesn’t contravene existing regulations.
CBS is remaining tight-lipped, other than to confirm that it will make
any on-air disclosure that is required of it. Elizabeth Arden is not
nearly so coy. ‘We’re delighted to get the publicity,’ Peter England,
its president, says.
Of course, it couldn’t happen here. Indeed, the Independent Television
Commission confirms that celebrities are forbidden from appearing in
drama shows to promote their products. But then again this didn’t stop
Edwina Currie, for example, from appearing as herself and plugging her
new novel on Channel 4’s political satire, Annie’s Bar, earlier this
CBS is calling the evening of 26 February ‘Liz night’. When Channel 4
starts trailing ‘Edwina evening’, we will know we are all in serious