An artisanally crafted blog curated by Cooking Lager for discerning readers of beer bloggery

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Product Placement

I want to ask a question. Is booze so evil and bad that it has to be excluded as an acceptable product in the new rules that make product placement acceptable in UK TV?

With ITV dying on its arse as we all click series record on our Freeview recorder boxes and skip through the adverts it’s no surprise that commercial TV needs to find in-programme advertising revenue, but why exclude booze?

A feature of UK TV that has long amused me are the made up brands that often appear in UK dramas. From the Stellaberg lager that Frank Gallagher drinks in the TV show Shameless to the well known Newton and Ridley fictional northern regional brewery whose ales are sold in the Rover’s Return pub in Coronation Street. Drinking is a normal form of behaviour in TV drama. In fact the behaviour is more than a little contrived. No one really goes to the pub with the regularity of TV characters, but the fictional pub provides a social setting for characters to interact, a requirement of drama. Arguably one of the more ridiculous elements isn’t the frequency of pub going but the number of characters in the soap EastEnders that use the local laundrette with a regularity that suggests they either do not possess washing machines or they have all bought ones that break down on a weekly basis.

Within these drama’s the characters are constructed by the writers in such a manner that part of the character description usually specifies what they drink in the local fictional pub as part of a character profile. Elderly businessmen can be counted on to order a scotch, elderly working class types, half a bitter or mild, young fellas, pint of lager or bottle of lager, rough lairy women that work in the factory all drink pints, the sophisticated ones drink wine or spritzers and old girls like a G&T . Any casual watcher of these dramas quickly picks up the formulas’ used and no amount of pointing out to the lady in your life that it is all the same storylines repeated ad infinitum (I'm waiting for a love triangle that involves the family dog) seems to reduce a requirement to watch them all.

As amusing as “Stellaberg” is, what is the problem with Frank Gallagher just having a pint of Stella? That example might be a bit ropey. Inbev are more likely to pay money so Frank Gallagher doesn’t drink Stella than any lout brewer pay money so he does, but even so drinking is a normal legal activity.

Why shouldn’t we see the Rover’s Return filled with people drinking Carling lager or the beer of any local northern regional brewer?

The first beer brands I became aware of were due no doubt to product placement in American movies put on UK TV. Coors for me is the beer Burt Reynolds transported across America with Smokey on his tale. Budweiser is the beer he drank when he was a drunk at the start of the sequel where they transported an Elephant. These brands looked exotic, exciting and representative of an American culture I much admired as a teenager. Maybe putting Hydes Bitter on in the Rovers Return wouldn’t have had the same effect but arguably neither option is an encouragement to drink. Drinking is a normal adult activity I was always going to have a go at regardless of what Curly Watts drank alongside having sex, driving and getting a credit card, and none of it so far has done me any harm and my intention is to keep going because I quite enjoy it. Especially the drinking and having sex bit.


matthew turner said...

Yeah ya pretty much hit the nail on the head really. Its always baffled me why they feel the need to use fake brands in tv...just cause I see some random character drinking a well known brand, dosn't mean im going to start necking it aswell. Maybe TV executives should start to realise people arnt brain dead zombies that react to everthing we see on telly.

arn said...

Perhaps someone can explain to me how the constant promotion of facebook (and twitter) on TV and radio is not product placement already in operation? Facebook is a revenue making company with a 'product' that BBC presenters drive me mad by plugging it every five minutes. How does that not breach the old rules?

Cooking Lager said...

I agree with both of you. I mean advertising does work or money wouldn't be spent on it, but it's not an evil form of mind control. When you look at the number of American brands in imported TV and consider UK TV is exported globally it might even improve UK exports. Most of the popularity of Aussie lager originates in the 80's when Aussie soap characters necked recognised brands of tinnies. The first VB I ever drank was a chance to try the beer Alf from home and away favours more than any beer geekery.

Phil said...

One year when I was visiting my parents in Brighton, my Dad gave me a couple of cans of Newton & Ridley bitter to drink on the train. The best bit was that they'd never watched Corrie, so he had no idea it was a made-up brewery - he'd just seen it in Tesco's. Don't know who brewed it really - I've got the can somewhere, so I can check if anyone's interested.

Fishter said...

So that's a reverse product placement. Make something up so you can put it on telly, then sell it later when it's famous!

Darren said...

As Alf would say "Cooky you flaming mongrel!" VB is cooking lager from my own back yard, only to be bettered by melbourne Bitter (MB) my old mans beer of choice when I was a kid. I believe that the recipe difference is 2 hop pellets in the 100000litre batch.

Séan Billings said...

I can't see the logic of excluding alcohol from this (I assume it is all alcohol excluded, not just beer). Not only is it a normal, legal product, as you pointed out, it is also heavily advertised on television already. Why exclude it from a single form of advertising?

Curmudgeon said...

"I’ve never really got the maudlin sadness at the decline of the pub industry"

Well, it's tea shops, country houses, steam locos, branch lines, half-cab buses, the Vickers Viscount, post offices, phone boxes etc.

Nostalgia, undoubtedly, but also something that had a real social meaning, as you can still see occasionally today.