I admit it, this time last week I wasn't an expert. I hadn't watched any of ITV's I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here. If you work in advertising and haven't heard of it you should consider a new career. But for those who have been trekking in the Outback, it's the latest reality TV show - eight celebrities swap their lavish lifestyles for meagre rations deep in the rainforest. Thanks to a bout of food poisoning from a not-so-lavish restaurant, I swapped the office for my sickbed. But undeterred, I set about becoming an expert.
Immersing myself in the programme I watched the first five hour-long editions in succession. Doing so didn't make me an expert, it made me an addict. I loved it. Ant and Dec guided us through endless moments of surreal comedy. Uri Geller sending Michael Jackson a physic birthday message on the wrong day; Rhona Cameron searching the upper echelons of Uri's pubic hair for nits; Darren Day fiddling with his be-towelled crotch in Christine Hamilton's face. Each moment defied belief.
Although addicted, watching five in a row felt like an overdose. In reality, they're scheduled at 9pm each night on ITV1. But my "cramming" experience makes me think the show's two-week duration is right - even if Rhona the moaner is voted off first.
So while I'd watched the programme I still didn't feel an expert. What did the critics think? Before airing they panned the show. "The definition of celebrity has been stretched to its extreme with this bunch of D-listers, one wrote. However, as the show gathered pace, the mood changes. "Celeb survivor: we love it, The Sun declared.
A senior ITV insider gushed to me about the show's success. "Last night (29 August) we averaged 6.7 million. It's bringing a massive youth audience.
We took a 40 per cent share of young adults last night and in the final five minutes we got a 50 per cent share of 16-34 adults, he said.
Their enthusiasm was infectious but I was wary. MindShare gave a second opinion - it supported my insider's optimism and highlighted that the spin-off show on ITV2 was proving a real draw. About 662,000 masochists tuned in, notching up a 7 per cent share of individuals in multichannel homes.
Combine this success with ITV's statement that October revenues were likely to show a rise of 6 per cent and one might believe that ITV has turned the corner. But no matter how much I enjoyed it, it is just a reformulation of Celebrity Big Brother. ITV must face the fact that its fortunes will only be reversed when it delivers original audience-grabbing concepts, not copies.
- Marcus Brown, the business development partner at Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R, shunned the world of celebrity when he sacrificed a promising future in theatre for a career in advertising.
Frequency: Nightly at 9pm
Average audience: 6.7 million (29 August)
Advertisers include: Toyota, Hotpoint, Starburst, Colgate, McDonald's