The X Factor and product placement – ASDA didn’t pay for Jahmene VT publicity

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.

12 comments to The X Factor and product placement – ASDA didn’t pay for Jahmene VT publicity

  • Apropos of this, I’ve created a Spotify playlist of this year’s auditionees: Now that Lucy Spraggan’s oeuvre has unfortunately been removed, it currently consists of the James Arthur Band’s 2 EPs, one Jahmene track (to my surprise) and a number of tracks released by Kye’s band Diagram Of The Heart. Interesting that all of these are still up despite Spraggan’s music being removed, which makes me think that pun-riddled “mix fix” article is correct. Another interpretation could be that only Lucy makes the lives. Also interestingly, James Arthur’s music seems nowhere near as popular as Lucy’s judging by the popularity bar.

  • Still early days, but these are my initial impressions. The most talented contestant so far – by a very large margin – is Jahmene. Kye, as suggested, will be Gary’s last man standing; Ella is an absolute shoe-in for the lives, and probably the semi-finals at least. The ‘cringe factor’ was delivered by Mr Arthur: a hugely overcooked performance undermined by the Tulisa mash-up. It’s hard to effect social realism (clearly styled after Plan B) when delivering lyrics as banal as hers. Hard to say how well he will do but a backlash of some variety seems likely. As for Ms Spraggan, very definitely not to my taste either but another very strong candidate for the live shows.

    All in all, contrary to the prevailing mood, I would say this is shaping up to be one of the most interesting (and eclectic) seasons ever.

    Love this site!

  • Andrew

    According to this morning’s Mirror, tonight’s hour-long show promises five featured auditions which total eight minutes of actual singing –

    Apparently we can expect to see

    Nicola-Marie (1min 20 seconds), Jake Quickenden (1min three seconds), Alison Brunta (1min 22 seconds), Joseph Whelan (1min 14 seconds) and Melanie (1min 40 seconds).

    This Melanie, one assumes –
    – another non-joke over for Gary?

    Jade Richards is a noteable absentee from that list, given she’s also been popping up in the papers the last couple days. Was that just coincidental or does it mean she’s getting the Joe Cox relegated-to-ITV2 treatment?

    Cowell, meanwhile, is “said to be privately ­disappointed no act to date had really captured the public’s imagination”.

    • R

      Don’t they usually only get about 1.30 each anyway? Most of the time is spent on building up their back-stories. (I’m doing it for my kids who i don’t see after walking out on the family sounds especially lame compared to the lady who had both legs blown off in the 7/7 bombings and is now competing in the Para-Olympics).

      Nicola-Marie is another tribute act so won’t be getting too far.

      Jake Q is a possible for the lives although I find his voice dull. They’ll play on his “heart-throb” looks and lifeguard background.

      If the Joseph Whelan is the one on Youtube, he already has a single available on itunes. Maybe this will be held back for late as he’s doing a cover tonight but gets a lot of praise.

      Melanie seems to be the star of the show tonight singing Janis Joplin.

      Tonight’s clown is Alison Brunton who sings Edge of Glory (no doubt to bring back memories of Kitty Brucknell).

      I’ve reassesed my view on Lucy Spraggan. I watched a few of her Youtube videos and got bored very quickly with songs such as Jeremy Kyle. Her songs all have the same tone, tempo, structure etc and the lyrics are pretty awful.
      “I woke up at 9.23, made myself a cup of tea, switched on the telly…” She’ll need a team of writers to help her come up with a series of decent material.

  • I realised afterwards my reply was very off-topic. Anyway, as a brief aside to the above I would cautiously submit Mia & The Moon (?) as one of the so-far quieter acts likely to generate more interest as the show progresses. It’s a pity there’s no betting on which acts will make it to the live stages (to the best of my knowledge) because – in a season which seems determined not to feature the perennially-popular ‘joke acts’ – Mia & The Moon look like the closest thing. Lovable, quirky… but with some solid musical licks at their disposal too.

    The fact that Gary is mentoring the Overs would suggest the trend towards ‘real music’ is set to last. He has previously made his opposition to novelty/camp performers very clear, and I don’t think he’ll be willing to accede to the producers’ wishes in this respect.

    Anyway – I agree with you: a bit of high camp at this stage would be welcome!

  • Asda did pretty badly out of the whole package. Film crews make an awful mess of a couple of hours of a shop’s trading time just to show a few seconds. The name Asda was mentioned once…

    If producers get any more paranoid about suspected product placement and other concerns programs filmed in the real world will consist of fully blurred-out screens.

    The only case which troubles me and was never investigated was the victory of a Carphone Warehouse employee in a show sponsored by Carphone Warehouse. But Paul Potts was the nation’s darling, so who would have cared whether there was a problem or not?

  • Dr Rich

    I cant remember a worse main show. In short we had 3 or 4 people that will end up in groups and 2 runners for the Overs. Joseph had brief moments that were good but overall his voice is just too rock, typical artist that has spent too long blasting out songs in a band. Melanie was easily the best, if a bit too much at times. Once it comes down to it however i think there is a lot of good in her voice and potential for a lot of variety. In terms of the overall challenge of the show i feel her voice is the best fit we have seen to date.

    • I really liked it – a lot more watchable, musical and entertaining than the past 2 weeks. They packed a decent amount of good auditions into the time. If they can harness her in the right way, Nicola Marie is one to watch.

      Surprised Jade’s return was shunted onto Xtra Factor. I love her to bits but felt the song choice didn’t show off her power and range, just her colour/texture. Gary saying “coming back this year, you are now a major contender to win this competition” is at odds with her audition not being in the main show.

  • Nugg

    And so the product placement now begins, a new XF revenue stream, I have a feeling we will be sickof he sight of samsung ipad clones by the end of the series 🙂

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