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Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Time-traveller or free-rider? Virgin pulls dodgy Doc ad

Tennant, but not for life:
Doctor Who has now used
at least 11 actors
In what may come as a surprise to some readers, fictional kats have fictional fancies and Merpel is obliged to confess that she is a die-hard fan of Dr Who. One of her greatest unfulfilled and so-far dreams is to be cast as one of Dr Who’s brave and decisive female companions. She was intrigued, however, to hear of a dispute between the BBC and Virgin Media in relation to the participation of a former Dr Who actor, David Tennant, in an advertisement for Virgin’s TiVo on-demand TV service.

You should never
have tried time
travel, Richard
The advert, which you can watch on YouTube here, goes something like this. Tennant is sitting on a couch, flicking through TV channels and complaining that there is nothing to watch. He then explains that, with Virgin Media’s ‘brilliant’ TIVO set-top box, he can find what he wants ‘in a jiffy with intelligent search’ of live TV, catch up TV and thousands of hours of TV on demand. In relation to the latter, he rather self-indulgently does a search of shows starring himself and, out of a list of his old shows, he selects the Dr Who section. Viewers then see a blurred shot of the Dr Who logo and of text which urges viewers to ‘Follow the Doctor and his sidekick as they go on more time-travelling adventures’. In the background, Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson is shown carrying out repairs to the ‘Virgin Time Machine’ while Tennant is talking. Tennant calls out ‘Hey get over here Rich, you’ll love this stuff’. However, at the same time, Branson becomes trapped in the machine and then reappears as his younger self.

The BBC was not impressed. Its guidelines state:
‘We should ensure that the BBC brand is not used to endorse outside companies or organisations. We can achieve this by ensuring commercial advertising, promotion and press releases by outside companies do not give the impression of BBC endorsement, and advertising does not “pass off” BBC programmes.’
A BBC spokesperson is quoted in many media sources as saying: ‘Virgin did not run this advert past us and, if they had, it probably would have been turned down.’ A Virgin Media spokeslady emphasised that that the advert was less about Dr Who and more to do with Branson’s well known interest in exploration and travel. She is quoted in many media outlets as adding:
First Doctor Who, William
Hartnell -- scarier than any
Dalek
‘Our new campaign explores some of the benefits of Virgin Media TiVo, including the ability to search for your favourite actor and discover TV programmes, films and YouTube content available live, on demand and as catch-up TV’.
Merpel has read in several places that today Virgin Media has agreed to stop showing the advert. A joint statement from Virgin Media and BBC Worldwide is reported as stating:
‘Virgin Media has listened to concerns raised by BBC Worldwide about perceived commercial endorsement by a BBC brand relating to the recent Virgin Media ad … As a gesture of goodwill, Virgin Media has agreed to withdraw the ad and BBC Worldwide is satisfied that the issue has been addressed’.
Merpel thinks Virgin Media has been let off lightly here and wonders whether that company -- which seems so comfortable in using iconic allusions to the intellectual property of others -- will now be amenable to the honest use in the course of trade of the word 'virgin' by others.

5 comments:

The Watcher said...

Oh come on Merpel, don't be so po-faced ("Virgin Media has been let off lightly here..."). If you take a look at the advert surely there is not a chance that anyone would be confused? It is just an example of the BBC not having a sense of humour.

Gentoo said...

mutatis mutandis or something.

14.4.32

‘We should ensure that the BBC brand is not used to endorse outside companies or organisations. We can achieve this by ensuring commercial advertising, promotion and press releases by outside companies do not give the impression of BBC endorsement, and advertising does not “pass off” BBC programmes.’

Similarly

14.2.1

We must be independent from outside interests and arrangements which could undermine our editorial integrity.

14.2.2

We must not endorse or appear to endorse any other organisation, its products, activities, services, views or opinions.

14.2.3

We must not give undue prominence to commercial products or services.

14.2.4

There must be no product placement in programmes.

On-air and online credits must be clearly editorially justified.


The Open Source Consortium is pursuing a product prominence case with a BBC programme here:

http://www.opensourceconsortium.org/content/view/190/1/

Anonymous said...

Having read Irvine v Talk Sport I think the BBC might have a plausible case based on the implication that they would have agreed to permit the ad in exchange for a payment.

Eric said...

Perhaps Virgin should have argued that all they did was "comparative advertising" ...
:)

Jim Davies said...

Could Virgin have hoped for this much value from the advert? Is it a case of finding a dispute and milking it? Go Daddy are the masters at this.

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