OPINION: MILLS ON ... COMMERCIALISM AND THE BBC

Don’t you just love the BBC? It plays a straight bat on the question of taking advertising on any part of its broadcasting service - ’no, we’re a public service organisation and no ads will sully our airwaves’. At the same time, it quite shamelessly (and very effectively) advertises itself in the commercial arena.

Don’t you just love the BBC? It plays a straight bat on the

question of taking advertising on any part of its broadcasting service -

’no, we’re a public service organisation and no ads will sully our

airwaves’. At the same time, it quite shamelessly (and very effectively)

advertises itself in the commercial arena.



That, of course, is one facet of the BBC we can argue about for ever and

a day. But there’s another, as demonstrated by its coverage of the

Wimbledon fortnight, that really deserves to be exposed to the light of

scrutiny - the way it lets third parties get away with promotional or

advertising murder under its nose.



If, like me, you have been watching the evening highlights regularly,

you may realise what I’m talking about: Pat Cash, the former Wimbledon

champ turned TV pundit. Ignore the dangly earring and the quasi-mullet

haircut. Concentrate instead on his chest. There he is, chatting away

blithely with John Inverdale and all the while outrageously flashing his

Ellesse clothing label at the cameras. Yes, dear reader, the man has

been created as a walking ad for Ellesse and the BBC is allowing him to

get away with it. And not just his shirt but his trousers too.



You think I’m joking, but what else are you supposed to conclude of a

guy who wears the same clothing label every day for a fortnight? It

surely can’t be a coincidence. I’m as fond of flashing my labels as the

next bloke but even I wouldn’t wear the same label every day unless

someone was paying me handsomely for it. So there we have it: the BBC

has been guilty of allowing product placement on prime time TV. (It’s

not the first time, by the way, as Ballykissangel fans will recall a

similar piece of product placement involving Guinness.) Compare Cash

with his fellow pundit, the label-free John McEnroe. Perhaps he should

sign up with Tommy Hilfiger next year.



Nor is Cash the only example of the way the BBC tolerates or turns a

blind eye to such commercial posturing at events such as Wimbledon. I’ve

lost count of post-match interviewees wearing Nike or Adidas caps and

sweattops. For heaven’s sake - who puts on a cap after a sweaty game and

a shower for an interview in a hot studio?



Again, you can only conclude that part of the player’s sponsorship deal

with Adidas or Nike means they have to wear the kit whenever they’re in

front of the cameras. That’s fine while they’re playing, but why does

the BBC have to collude in such shameless commercialism when they’re

not?



The other view - ie wearing a marketing and advertising hat - is that

the Ellesse team should be congratulated for pulling this one off. And

they should. I bet they can hardly believe they got away with it. Just

think, ten to 15 minutes’ exposure every night to a nigh-on perfect

audience and for a brand that spends pounds 3-pounds 4 million a year

(and none of that on telly) - less than half its major rivals.



And now I see that the BBC is up to it again, with a Coca-Cola deal to

sponsor the Radio 1 live shows. Apparently, they don’t get any on-air

credits (I bet Ellesse could teach them a thing or two) but they do get

full access to the audiences. So that’s alright then. Rubbish.



But how much longer can the BBC go on saying one thing and doing

another?



dominic.mills@haynet.com.



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