The Biggest Loser – At What Point Does Product Placement Become An Advertorial?
When did The Biggest Loser turn into The Truman Show? Where the product placement moved from being placed on benches to becoming part of the storyline.
Watch this clip from The Truman Show and then think back to last night’s The Biggest Loser episode.
Half way through last night’s episode Shannan Ponton was talking to Cher and her mum about how he was going to assist them this week as their exclusive trainer, an advantage they had just won on the show.
The segment has him instructing them to eat 1000 calories a day and then asks them how their bodies are holding up to training?
The code outlines:
Disclosure of Commercial Arrangements
1.19 For the purposes of Clauses 1.20–1.23 the following definitions apply:
1.19.1 “Commercial arrangement” means an agreement or arrangement under which
a licensee, an independent producer or a presenter agrees with a third party to
endorse or feature the third party’s products or services in a factual program in
exchange for consideration. For the avoidance of doubt, the free provision of a
product or service for review is not a commercial arrangement.
1.19.2 “Factual program” means a current affairs, documentary or infotainment
program broadcast by the licensee.
1.20 If a licensee enters into a commercial arrangement in relation to a factual program, and
the third party’s products or services are endorsed or featured in the program, the
licensee must disclose the existence of that commercial arrangement. ommercial Television Industry Code of Practice January 2010
1.23 A disclosure required by this clause must be made either during the program or in the
credits of the program and should adequately bring the existence of any such commercial
arrangement to the attention of viewers in a way that is readily understandable to a
Also under the section titled Presentation Of Broadcast Material it states:
1.18 Where a licensee receives payment for material that is presented in a program or segment
of a program, that material must be distinguishable from other program material, either
because it is clearly promoting a product or service, or because of labelling or some other
form of differentiation.
One of the issues is whether The Biggest Loser would be classified as a factual program under the code. Also whether the disclosure made was readily understandable to a reasonable person. In other words did the viewer realise that this Krill Oil segment which went for about a minute was an advertisement?
I raised this issue with Network, and a TEN spokesperson said the segment did comply with the Code.
The Network TEN spokesperson said:
“Product placement is a fact of life in television programs today (thanks to rising production costs, the search by advertisers for new ways to engage with consumers), and most consumers understand why product placement exists. They may not like it, but they understand it.”
“The level of product placement in The Biggest Loser: The Next Generation is not excessive. In fact, we would argue the level of product placement is higher in other programs, including The Block and Celebrity Apprentice.”
“Of course, Network Ten adheres strictly to the Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice. The Code is co-regulated by industry and the government regulator and contains provisions regarding branded entertainment. The primary focus is on ensuring paid content in a program / segment is clearly distinguishable due to branding / labelling or because it is clearly promoting a product or service. Nothing in last night’s episode of The Biggest Loser: The Next Generation breached the Code.”
“The commercial arrangement with Nature’s Way was disclosed in the program end credits and in sponsorship billboards accompanying the program. The end credits say The Biggest Loser is made with the support of and various company logos, including Nature’s Way.”
I have no problem with product placement and think it is part and parcel of reality TV and ensures there production values can be maintained. I also agree with the TEN spokesperson The Biggest Loser has nowhere as near the amount of product placement as we see on The Block and to be fair that show has people visiting Freedom and Mitre TEN, the shows sponsors as part of their plot lines.
However the Natures Way Krill Oil segment was different it was not just the product sitting on a kitchen bench or a logo or a person eating yoghurt. It was presented by Shannan, who viewers would see as an authority on fitness and health, spruiking and also endorsing a product in an educational way as part of a storyline where he was giving out other diet information.
This is a grey area and is it will be something we will continue to see more of on reality TV shows, and the question whether a mention in the credits is enough for a reasonable person to understand that some of the dialogue they just heard in the show was in fact advertising.
What are your thoughts on product placement and the segment last night?
The Biggest Loser Australia on TEN Sunday to Tuesday at 7.30pm