PERSPECTIVE: A fine line between 15 minutes of fame and over-exposure

Jamie Oliver’s decision to take the Sainsbury’s shilling - well, a million quid actually - to help set the supermarket’s barcode lasers buzzing again is proving as indigestible as a plate of cold chips at BBC Television Centre.

Jamie Oliver’s decision to take the Sainsbury’s shilling - well, a

million quid actually - to help set the supermarket’s barcode lasers

buzzing again is proving as indigestible as a plate of cold chips at BBC

Television Centre.



The Corporation is getting very huffy at the news that one of its

hottest properties has sold his soul to the admen and is being none too

subtle about what it expects if Oliver is to stay in its employ.



No plagiarising of The Naked Chef format, no plugging of similar recipes

in the commercials and no scheduling the ads to appear on ITV while

Oliver is just a press of the remote button away on the other side.



Poor old Auntie. Yet again she seems out of date and out of touch,

unable to keep abreast of a changing world as it speeds past her and she

tries to keep herself pure while the rising tide of get-rich-quick

celebs turns into a flood.



Her problem is a tabloid press which creates celebrities faster than you

can say ’Anna Kournikova’. What’s more, they’re not celebrities content

with mere fame.



They are all only too aware of Andy Warhol’s observation on their

ephemeral status and want to cash in while it lasts. This may be with

the aid of smart lawyers who are finding courts increasingly sympathetic

to the argument that attempts to shackle their clients amount to

restraint of trade.



It all goes to show how far the cult of celebrity has travelled from

that innocent age when the nation tuned in en masse to watch Percy

Thrower, who was never seen in his BBC greenhouse without waistcoat, tie

and pipe.



Today he would have earned millions through advertising

endorsements.



Instead, the seeds he sowed are there for Charlie Dimmock to reap.



Yet I believe the BBC is right to take an uncompromising line in

protecting the integrity of its programmes - and that it is in the ad

industry’s best interests that it is successful.



If this is hard for the BBC, which carries no advertising (OK, it

shamelessly promotes its own commercial activities but we’ll let that

pass for the moment), it is even tougher for ITV.



There, the growth of sponsorship and the creeping incursions of product

placement threaten to blur the distinctions between advertising and

programming.



The National Consumer Council has spotted one symptom of a worrying

trend, voicing its concern about the featuring of heavily advertised

toys in children’s programmes.



At first glance, it may be hard to see why advertisers shouldn’t be

rather pleased at the increased opportunities for promoting themselves

outside the confines of the commercial break.



In reality, this is a self-defeating attitude. Protecting programmes

from becoming advertising vehicles is in everybody’s interest. Without

safeguards, broadcasters will see their offerings become debased along

with the popularity of their stars. What value will either be to

advertisers then?



john.tylee@haynet.com.