CLOSE-UP: GLOBAL BRIEF; UK actress exploits US ad law

Elizabeth Arden has found a loophole in US rules on ads, Richard Cook reports

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