The prominence of certain well-known national chains in the first X Factor audition episode raised some eyebrows in our comments section. “I wonder how much Nandos paid for all the plugs?”, said Nugg apropos Sheyi Omatayo, whose pre-performance chat with the judges was essentially a listing of condiments. About the starring role of ASDA in Jahmene Douglas’s audition, Dug asked “Does anyone know of any official agreement between the two brands?”
Meanwhile, the always-excellent Bitch Factor commented “Everyone seems a lot more open about the specific nature of their job now that the product placement regulations have been relaxed, don’t they?”. It certainly did seem that way. And if you were in charge of a supermarket chain, a cynic might wonder, is there any job you’d rather have an employee shown doing than lowering prices?
Was there really something going on here? If so, then it would clearly be of interest to those of us who enjoy a bet on the show. Imagine for a moment if the X Factor coffers were receiving a boost every time Jahmene was pictured lopping 10 percent off a ready meal. Mightn’t we assume that could make producers keener for Jahmene to stick around in the competition?
Sofabet decided to do a bit of digging. And, in this case, cynicism is misplaced. No money is changing hands here.
Product placement is, indeed, now allowed on British television – it’s regulated by Ofcom, and you can read the rules on their website. However, any programme with a product placement deal needs to display a “P” logo for three seconds at the start of the show and after each ad break. Eagle-eyed viewers will have noticed that the X Factor displayed no such logo, meaning there was no deal in place.
We contacted the programme to ask them to confirm this, and here’s what they replied:
There was no financial arrangement of any kind with ASDA in relation to filming a profile of our contestant, Jahmene Douglas.
There are no product placement arrangements in place with THE X FACTOR currently. However, product placement is now permitted under Ofcom rules and it is possible that formal product placement arrangements may be introduced in future series or future episodes – in which case Ofcom guidelines would apply.
So, keep an eye out for that “P”!
You would think that product placement – if and when it comes – will likely take a more mundane form, along the lines of the Coca-Cola cups which adorn the desks of the American Idol judges. The idea of corporate-sponsored contestants sounds like fun – a face-off between, say, ASDA Jahmene and Tesco Mary would certainly give us punters another angle to analyse. But on reflection, there are a couple of reasons to think it probably won’t happen.
Firstly, those Ofcom regulations mean it would all have to be transparent, and that could risk a backlash among the voting public if one contestant had a corporate juggernaut behind them and others didn’t.
Second, by paying for a contestant’s exposure, a brand would effectively be elevating its employee to the status of ambassador – something which always carries risks even when a celebrity’s persona is already established, as shown by the terrible publicity Stacey Solomon received for smoking while pregnant just after she’d been appointed as the new face of Iceland.
If ASDA had paid for Jahmene’s exposure, they might be worried about some of the reaction to him in the Sofabet comments – “creepy” (Shade), “Michael Jackson creepy” (Kieran) and “a slight case of the shivers” (Dug) – though this was not a view shared by eurovicious. The corporation’s bosses might also have had something to say about how the show playfully scattered allusions to Forrest Gump throughout Jahmene’s audition.
There’s a long history of brands getting exposure on talent show auditions that they would presumably have been willing to pay for – think of Marcus Collins wanting to find fame so he could go into M&S instead of walking past it, and Piers Morgan’s “you work at Carphone Warehouse and you did that” to Paul Potts. But is there any way for shows to tap that income stream without sending viewer cynicism through the roof?
In other news, Nicole’s judges’ houses has reportedly filmed this week but Judge, the gold standard of inside information in recent years, is still off the radar, his website returning an error message. And last Saturday’s show’s star Lucy Spraggan has reportedly been instructed to remove her songs from online sale amid worries she would embarrassingly outsell Little Mix – or, as the Sun’s headline writer inimitably put it, Lucy has had her “hit nixed in Mix fix“.
Seasoned X Factor observers will chuckle at the reported official explanation for the move: “‘All contestants have been asked to remove their recordings as it is essential that all the contestants are treated fairly during the competition and, where possible, receive the same exposure.” Lucy, meanwhile, is reported as saying “you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do, to get somewhere in life”.
What to make of this? As Gavster speculates in the comments, it “perhaps signals her place in the live shows”. It does seem strange that the edict to take down recordings is being issued only now, two audition episodes in – was it a tactic to test how well Lucy went down with the record-buying public, or a simple oversight from the production team with so much else going on at the moment?
As ever, do keep the conversation going below.