MEDIA: PERSPECTIVE; How does the BBC duck TV etiquette on product plugs?

‘You cannot hope/to bribe or twist/Thank God! The British journalist/But seeing what/That man will do/Unbribed, there’s no occasion to.’ There was always a grain of truth in that charming piece of doggerel by Humbert Wolfe but never did one think it might apply to the BBC.

‘You cannot hope/to bribe or twist/Thank God! The British journalist/But

seeing what/That man will do/Unbribed, there’s no occasion to.’ There

was always a grain of truth in that charming piece of doggerel by

Humbert Wolfe but never did one think it might apply to the BBC.



Not so anymore, judging by the evidence of my own eyes and a Tim McKane

of Belfast, who tells me he has heard no less than three ‘commercial’

plugs on Gary Lineker’s Radio Five Live show for Walkers and its Salt

and Lineker flavoured crisps. To wit: 1) A reference to Gazza crying,

just like he does in the ad. 2) A direct reference to ‘my crisps’ by the

sainted Gary. 3) A reference to the show itself as ‘Sport and Lineker’.

Since he has a crisps client, McKane asks, can he book some airtime on

BBC Radio?



Of course he can’t, but if I was him I’d hire myself a PR company pretty

quick to see if it too can put one over on the BBC.



The thing is, it doesn’t seem that hard to put one over on the BBC these

days. In fact, given the ever-watchful eye of the Independent Television

Commission - remember the pounds 500,000 fine levied on Granada for

giving undue plugs - it seems you can get away with murder on the BBC,

but not on ITV.



For example, a few weeks ago in Ruby Wax Meets...Pamela Anderson, the

first five minutes were a massive plug for Richard Branson and Virgin

Airlines. But you have to hand it to Richard, who did nothing more than

mug shamelessly for the camera and give Ruby a free flight. But how did

he get away with it? And why didn’t BA go apeshit?



More recently I saw an episode of a (dire) sitcom called Next of Kin in

which Penelope Keith took the grandchildren to Chessington World of

Adventures. This was fine, except that Chessington received about ten (I

gave up counting) gratuitous namechecks, as well as numerous action

shots of its branded rides - the best ad I’ve ever seen for the place.

What gave it added piquancy is that Chessington belongs to the Pearson

Group, which owns Thames TV and a stake in Channel Five. And the plot of

last Sunday’s Ballykissangel concerned the tragedy of the missing stout

(guess which brand). Effectively, it seems to me, it is now possible to

sponsor a BBC programme. So, in the immortal words of another BBC

programme, ‘How do they do that?’



How indeed? I can only think of three possible explanations: first,

sheer naivety such that the BBC doesn’t know it’s being had. Second,

like a housewife who goes on the game when the family falls on hard

times, the BBC does it because money’s tight and it has to use every

funding trick in the book. Third, it’s all part of a giant conspiracy to

introduce creeping commercialism to the BBC.



Whatever, my advice to any advertiser is not to complain but to get

moving and make some friends in the BBC’s props and production

department.



Become a member of Campaign from just £45 a quarter

Get the very latest news and insight from Campaign with unrestricted access to campaignlive.co.uk ,plus get exclusive discounts to Campaign events

Become a member

Looking for a new job?

Get the latest creative jobs in advertising, media, marketing and digital delivered directly to your inbox each day.

Create an Alert Now

Partner content

Share

1 Why creative people have lost their way

What better way to kick off Campaign's relaunch than with another think piece on the current failings of our industry, written by an embittered, pretentious creative who misses "the way things used to be"...

Share

1 Job description: Digital marketing executive

Digital marketing executives oversee the online marketing strategy for their organisation. They plan and execute digital (including email) marketing campaigns and design, maintain and supply content for the organisation's website(s).