Opinion: Yoghurt, product placement and, er, salad ...

“When the chat about product placement is as loud as that about the film itself, it’s time to get worried.”

Oct 24, 2011 09:45:00 PM | Article | Dominic Mills

This time a year ago, the national conversation was dominated by just one subject: farmers who rapped about their cows, the grass and their yoghurt.

Of course they weren’t real farmers but an advertising construct which shot to fame courtesy of a radical strategy conceived by Bartle Bogle Hegarty, which booked an entire advertising slot on the nation’s favourite TV show, X Factor.

The ad was for a hitherto-little known Somerset dairy brand called Yeo Valley which produces excellent yoghurt. For those unfamiliar with British geography, Somerset is a rural area about 130 miles south-west of London. Beautiful as it is, Somerset is disparagingly regarded by metropolitan types as parochial, behind the times and populated by straw-chewing agricultural types.

Although the ad only ran once on TV, that was enough. Social media did the rest, and pretty soon Yeo Valley yoghurt was walking off the shelves.

But what to do next? Well, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it: thus, a year on, Yeo Valley is back on the X Factor with  similar strategy, but a different band. This time it’s boy band The Churned (a not-very-subtle dairy reference) with a song called Forever.

And very convincing they are too – so convincing that for the first 60 seconds I thought it was an ad for a new boy band. In fact one of adland’s muted criticisms of the new campaign is that the band is too realistic.

Yeo Valley and BBH should care (not): the film has been viewed 230,000 times on YouTube and generated nearly 11 million tweet impressions.

This kind of buzz exemplifies what agencies, at the top of their game, and with an adventurous client, can do: produce big ideas that engage the nation, form the basis of a long-running campaign and, of course, drive sales.

Hype and brand mania

Even 5,000 miles away in London, the hype around next week’s launch of Ra.One is audible. More interesting is the way film-linked product placement is taking off, with brands no longer able to resist the magic of Bollywood and SRK.

But when the chat about product placement – and there seems to be a plethora of a dozen or so brands in Ra.One – is as loud as that about the film itself, it’s time to get worried.

Over here too, product placement is gaining ground and now creeping from film to TV as regulators have listened sympathetically to broadcasters complaining about the erosion of their advertising base.

So far, the lines have been relatively well observed (unlike, say, the Bond films, where it feels as though the tail is wagging the dog). But it is dangerous ground and my feeling is that Indian brands, which seemingly fall over for the slightest hint of Bollywood magic, should be careful. So too should the film-makers. It’s easy money for them, but it doesn’t take much to alienate consumers.

The war of the lettuce

Unlikely as it may seem, the humble lettuce is at the heart of a new advertising  war between two of Britain’s biggest supermarket brands, Tesco and Sainsbury’s.

The background is a massive price war with all the major players vowing to cut more money off household budgets than their rival.

Number three brand Sainsbury’s claims that a Tesco ad saying it delivers all its iceberg lettuces from field to store within 24 hours is false.

It’s laughable really, but on such detail do the supermarkets slug it out every week. Pity the poor UK equivalent of India’s ASCI, which has to adjudicate on such weighty matters.