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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?

 Anita responds by saying “her knees are a little bit sore” and Cher states her ankles are a bit sore and stiff.
Shannan says “So a little bit stiff and sore in the joints?” he then proceeds to pick up the vitamin container off the table and tells them to take Super Krill Oil whilst there is a a close up of the Natures Way product on camera. He goes on to say “it is fantastic for  lubricating joints, it is going to ease your osteoarthritis and that sort of stuff and it is something I take everyday. And other than that I want you to take a night time Rest and Restore as well which is just a simple multi vitamin but it is going to cover all your bases.”
He then hands the bottles over to the girls.
 Now we all know that product placement is part and parcel of reality TV and I have no problem with that, however was this segment an advertorial or endorsement posing as a storyline . Was the viewer meant to take it as advertising or see it as part of the “educational or infomational” part of the show? At no stage was their a sign to say this was a short segment promoting a product the show has  a commercial agreement with.
We see these type of infomation segments on morning TV where it is clear that it is an advertising segment, however in this case was it as clear to the viewer?
Also is this type of advertorial storyline complying with 2010 Commercial Television Industry Code Of Practice

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
reasonable person.

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

22 comments

1 Joseph Skyrim { 03.26.13 at 1:06 pm }

I don’t have a problem with the product placement, doesn’t he (and Michelle) have an ad for the very same thing anyway? Same thing I would think.

Thought it was silly for the green team not to open the frige themselves though. Sure it could be bad (slash good – like if they had to eat some ice cream… yummers! :P), but I would think it’s worse that you think it’s something bad and pass it on to someone else, making enemies in the house.

2 Tickled Pink { 03.26.13 at 1:16 pm }

I was cringing while watching the segment.. it just didn’t sit right with me

3 brain dead dave { 03.26.13 at 1:21 pm }

I think that claims regarding alleged health benefits have more serious ramifications than your average Mitre 10 ad.

Shannan’s been advertising this stuff for some time,with similar spiel to what he bleated last night. Significant that he didn’t mention that several studies have found toxic residue in Antarctic krill. That’s hardly nature’s way.

I think it ‘s true that some viewers blindly accept that because of this show, Shannan is some kind of health expert and his endorsements are fair dinkum. I’ve never seen him as much more than a ridiculously tattooed , verbally abusive, knuckle dragging gym junkie . I don’t think there is conclusive empirical evidence re the claims for krill oil. It’s not cheap, either.

I was laughing at the segment so hard because my friend said, “I bet that’s krill oil he’s got in his hand” and sure enough. I mean , the contestants are getting sore knees because joints aren’t designed to carry that much lard and the exercise doesn’t help that situation at all.

Both trainer Michelle and Shannan advertise snake oil during the year. I’m more impressed with the Commando because he seems to steer clear of that bs.

4 brain dead dave { 03.26.13 at 1:44 pm }

If this appalling show was really serious about looking after the joints of the contestants, I’d expect to see much more exercise done in water, which is muscle toning and takes the weight off joints.

5 Culinary Boner { 03.26.13 at 2:39 pm }

Dear Shannong, I apologise for making fun on an earlier post about the krill oil product you were flogging to them fat chicks last night.

Having now seen Raver’s photo I now see you are flogging SUPER Krill Oil, not that low-quality, non-super stuff. Apologies again.

* Disclaimer: no Sea Monkeys died in the making of this post.

6 Rob { 03.26.13 at 3:05 pm }

Shine know the writing is on the wall for the format and they’ll take any chance to save some cash. Product placement money goes to production. Advertising money goes to network. Krill juice! Yeah!

7 littlepetal { 03.26.13 at 3:12 pm }

What Shannan did last night was different from doing an ad for Natures Way. In the ad, we know it is an ad and he is paid to do it.

When Shannan did that in TBL, viewers will take his advice as some will think he knows all and believe what he is telling Cher and her mum.

8 A.P { 03.26.13 at 3:30 pm }

I just knew he was going to promote something any second,it was so obvious and in your face! I just want to watch the show, no pushing of products please!
I would have chosen the Commando as my personal trainer if I were the yellow team, he makes you work harder and achieve results fast.

9 Reality Raver { 03.26.13 at 3:31 pm }

BDD – Agree we don’t even know if the claims he is making is correct.

Little Petal – see this person what she had to write on facebook site
Zane Cameron Last nights episode had me barfing at Shannon pushing vitamin supplements on Cher and her Mum. For chrissakes, we already have the TBL trainers flogging vitamins in the ad breaks, do they have to do it on the show as well?
about an hour ago · Like · 1

Michelle Davis he wasnt pushing them on them he was trying to help them with their aches and pains because of their weight dont be so judgemental
about an hour ago · Like

Marion Downing He was only doing it because he is paid to advertise those vitamins. If I was on there I wouldn’t believe that he really thinks those things work- because he gets paid to say they do.
53 minutes ago · Like

CB – very funny

10 Daisy { 03.26.13 at 3:34 pm }

CB. You HAVE got sea monkey fever.

11 Joseph Skyrim { 03.26.13 at 3:50 pm }

I agree with BDD that they should have more swimming type activities – I imagine it’s harder to push people who give up in there though. Also they’d need lots of lifesaver dudes on hand – what happens if one of the whales starts to drown? 😛

Anywho, Shannon also told the two to only have 1000 calories a day.
http://www.weightlossresources.co.uk/calories/calorie_counting/1000_diet_menu.htm

Hope they aren’t expected to keep that up for too long.

12 LB { 03.26.13 at 4:06 pm }

It was appalling to see Shannon casually sling Wild Krill Oil at the contestants without any accompanying on screen disclaimer at the time. Having a Product Consideration credit is markedly different for a car or retail outlet or a type of equipment than it is for a product with proclaimed health benefits. Many of the studies were co-sponsored by vitamin companies, which I don’t take much notice of. I could only find one double blind study (couldn’t find any co-sponsor credit on that one) which supported the claims. Most of the health benefits seem to be anecdotal and even in the TVC’s it is claimed that these products “could help”, “may help”, “may assist in”, whereas Shannon said “this will help”. Semantics I know, but this is really important in the advertising & promotion of therapeutic products.

13 Culinary Boner { 03.26.13 at 4:17 pm }

Daisy, that’s because my Sea Monkey experience as a ten or 11-year-old back in the early 1970s is up there as one of life’s earliest disappointments, on a par with those X-ray specs that didn’t allow my 13-year-old self to see through ladies’ clothes and underwear. (Patently I was too stupid to realise that if they truly did work I’d be on my way to developing some sort of weird skeleton fetish).

Back to sea monkeys, there’s the marketing promise of a group of small, almost extraterrestrial, sentient beings hatching in a jar of water to form families that perform all sorts of amusing japes and pratfalls…and the reality of tiny short-lived crustaceans with no personality whatsoever and seemingly no real purpose in life other than to give their lives by the tonne feeding ungrateful whales.

Now that I’m the wrong side of 50 it’s heartening to know that the clever folks at Natures Way have found the true purpose of sea monkeys – disappointing fat reality TV “stars”, rather than pre-pubescent boys with over-grown imaginations and no common sense. Throw another SUPER krill on the barbie, will ya!

14 Daisy { 03.26.13 at 4:34 pm }

I had a bad sea monkey experience. A a student teacher in the 70s I bought some and had my class collect jars. I gave a great build and raised the children’s hope of seeing sea monkeys. They probably thought they would look like real monkeys. With great excitement and anticipation we put our sea monkey into water and monitored them every day. Nothing! Nothing! And more nothing! The kids were disappointed and I was glad it was only a 2 week prac and I could get my butt out of there.

My brother bought a muscle developer. When that didn’t work he went back to folding his leg back into his bermuda shorts and pretending to have one leg, and to making a noose out of the venetian blind chord. He’s OK now though.

15 brain dead dave { 03.26.13 at 4:34 pm }

Big Kev chucked it in after one minute on the treadmill , so it’s hard to see him backing up on a 21 k half lardathon tonight on what looks like a hard , joint rattling dirt track. The trainers will assure him that whatever doesn’t krill him will make him stronger.

Hopefully the krill sargeant Shannan doesn’t ride him too hard but appropriately, one of the other contestants tells him to ” **** off ” and gives him a solid push away..

I remember “The Promise” of those sea monkey ads. It’s a rotten world.

16 Daisy { 03.26.13 at 4:36 pm }

Another disappointment….spirograph.

17 Daisy { 03.26.13 at 4:38 pm }

More recent product disappointment….the electric peelers we bought on a trip to China. Although Iron Chef had fun peeling a tennis ball.

18 Daisy { 03.26.13 at 4:40 pm }

Does anyone know if that miracle ‘slicer dicer’ thingy works?

19 Laura { 03.26.13 at 5:07 pm }

I agree with people above – Block contestants shopping at Mitre 10 can’t be compared with Shannan spruiking Nature’s Way. Not that taking them will do the contestants any harm but studies show over and over that taking vitamins have no measurable benefits for people who take them (unless those studies are skewed in some way). So , in a professional capacity as a trainer and nutritionist (I am assuming he has some kind of qualification in the latter) Shannan is ignoring his clients’ potential injuries and pushing a placebo onto them, for money. And that advice is being watched by hundreds of thousands of vulnerable (some would say gullible) viewers.

That said, I am more concerned about the 1000 calories paired with such intense exercise. That IS harmful.

20 SB { 03.26.13 at 9:01 pm }

Daisy, the slicer-dicer does work, but you have to chop the pieces into manageable sizes anyway, so it’s just as easy to just keep chopping. (Also the slicer attachment can be a bit slippy to use, so the uncoordinated are likely to lose some fingers)

21 Daisy { 03.26.13 at 9:28 pm }

SB Thankyou so much for your help. You confirmed what I suspected.
Occasionally you come across a simple gadget that works, like the simple egg slicer.

22 The Biggest Loser – The Half Marathon Saw Some Teams Thrive And Others Crack | reality ravings { 03.26.13 at 11:11 pm }

[…] I also noted tonight that Shannan’s infomercial where he was stretching on some blue elastic and talking about krill oil again had the Natures Way logo at the bottom of the screen. If you missed the previous episodes Truman Show like product placement read about it here. […]