We bring you another exclusive Mickyleaks from our intrepid investigator, Glenn Dontcare. He has hacked into the script department at Granada TV and discovered this scene from a forthcoming episode of Coronation Street, due to be broadcast after relaxation of the rules on product placement. (Non Corrie watchers may prefer to skip to our comments at the end.)
SCENE: INTERIOR, DAY, WEATHERFIELD MACDONALDS
Steve and Becky, in uniform, are behind the counter. Becky is at the fryer. Steve hands Ken a tray.
Steve: Here you are, mate. Two Merry Meals, only £4.99 each with vouchers off for next time.
Ken: Thanks, Steve, exactly what the doctor ordered! In fact, according to a scientific article here (juggling the tray with an iPad) there’s considerable nutritional value in this burger, chips and artificially sweetened diet drink.
Ken sits at nearby table as a very youthful and glamorous looking Deidre enters. She’s full of the joys and holding several shopping carriers.
Deidre: Ooh lovely smell! All that shopping’s made me famished.
Ken: (to Deidre) Perfect timing, love. Let’s get tucked in. I’ve just been dashing off another chapter of my novel.
Camera lingers on Ken’s TOSHIBA laptop and then, for no particular reason, his LG phone.
Becky: You look younger every week, Deidre. What’s your secret?
Deidre: (giggles ) For eternal youth, turn left at the High Street, every High Street! (She opens Boots carrier and removes a selection of L’Oreal hair products.)
Ken, Steve and Becky: Because she’s worth it!
Becky: (noticing Deidre’s Next carrier) And a new outfit?
Deidre: Couldn’t resist a couple of little numbers from this well known chain. Highly recommended for style, price and all ages . Tracey shops there too.
Cut to Steve and Becky out of earshot, behind the counter. Becky’s mood has suddenly changed. She flings a bag of fries on the floor.
Steve: Oy, stop going off on one every time Tracey’s mentioned.
Becky: It’s not Tracey.
Steve: Well what is it?
Becky: It’s my clothes. However hard I try, I just can’t keep them looking fresh and clean like Deidre’s and Tracey’s. (sobs uncontrollably.) I mean, look at the stains on these trousers!
Steve: (embracing her) Don’t worry, Becks. I promise we’ll get it sorted. No matter what. (deep sigh) Just wish I could find a way. (close-up of his desperate eyes)
Cut to Deidre and Ken at their table.
Deidre: And, guess what, love? While I was at the supermarket where every little helps, I stocked up with this weeks BOGOFs.
She produces two tins of Pal dog food
Ken: What a bargain, love. Shame we don’t have a dog.
Deidre: We can always get one, love. This offer’s going on all month.
Ken: Good idea, love.
Deidre: (barely able to contain her excitement) And look, Ken, love, look!
She delves into the Tesco bag and proudly produces two bottles of Vanish Stain Remover.
Cut to Steve, who has been observing. His eyes light up. His problems are solved.
END OF SCENE
Stint by sponsor, followed by commercial break.
Some serious points from DemocracyFail
This is an absurd script of course, but we chose a familiar, popular drama, to demonstrate how product placement can influence plot, dialogue, character and the integrity of a programme.
We don’t expect high-quality programmes like Coronation Street to compromise their integrity – too much. But with the plethora of commercial television channels, and a plethora of low quality, low cost TV, many producers will be tempted by the lucrative earnings from product placement. This can so easily lead to a situation where the product ends up leading the programme.
Of course PP will be used in a considerably more subtle way than in our script and, in its most expert form, will be no distraction at all. This should ring even louder alarm bells! If we don’t even notice its presence, it will be a form of subliminal advertising that will be effective. Companies won’t be spending thousands promoting their products just for the fun of it. They will be expecting – and receiving – a good return.
Children will not be exempt. Ofcom banning product placement from children’s television is pretty meaningless when children watch so much adult TV. And how long before the currently banned fast food wriggles away from restriction?
The problem extends to BBC transmissions. While not allowed to use it itself, it can buy programmes which use product placement. And the BBC buys an awful lot of programmes.
We could go on forever, but it seems to us that product placement is happening with very little debate. Its only justification is to help meet the diminishing advertising returns of broadcasters. While “the market” is apparently the arbiter for the success or failure of small business, it seems unjust that the rules can be changed to benefit big business.
Finally, we cannot escape the fact that the success of commercial television companies like BSkyB is normally to the detriment of the BBC. Is product placement another another stab in the back of public broadcasting?