Ferne McCann: First Time Mum is a factual series broadcast on ITVBe, a portfolio channel of
ITV. It features new mother Ferne McCann, a former cast member of The Only Way is Essex.
The programme follows her as she adapts to motherhood, and tries to balance her new
responsibilities with her career as a model and television personality.
Ofcom received a complaint that this episode of the programme included visual and verbal
references to the infant formula (baby milk) brand Aptamil.
In the first part of the 60-minute programme, Ferne was in a hotel room, getting ready for a
public appearance, when she had to change her baby Sunday, which caused her to be late. At
one point, the camera zoomed in on a number of Aptamil products on a table. This close-up
during which the branding on the products was clearly visible, lasted around one
In the second part of the programme, Ferne was packing for a holiday, with the help of her
mother Jill. During this sequence, Fern held up an Aptamil product, with its branding clearly
Fern then set the Aptamil product down. Later in the same sequence, she was worried about
fitting everything in her suitcase. There were a number of shots, including close-ups, of the
half-packed suitcase, over a period of approximately a minute and a half. The contents of the
suitcase included clothes, nappies and the Aptamil product. The branding on the product
was either clearly or partially visible in these shots.
In the third part of the programme, Ferne was briefly shown preparing a formula milk feed,
spooning powder into a bottle and mixing it, while worrying about getting to the airport on
The branding on the product was not visible during this sequence, which lasted
approximately five seconds.
In the fourth part of the programme, Ferne reflected on her first holiday with Sunday. There
was another close-up shot of an Aptamil product, with the branding clearly visible.
lasted around three seconds.
ITV confirmed that there was no product placement arrangement in place which resulted in
the inclusion of references to Aptamil in the programme
We considered that this material raised potential issues under Rule 9.5 of the Code:
“No undue prominence may be given in programming to a product, service or trade
mark. Undue prominence may result from:
• the presence of, or reference to, a product, service or trade mark in
programming where there is no editorial justification; or
• the manner in which a product, service or trade mark appears or is referred to in
We therefore sought ITV’s comments on how the content complied with this rule.
ITV said that in its view the visual and verbal references to Aptamil products were editorially
justified, and none of the shots of these products included in the programme were unduly
According to ITV, Ferne McCann routinely uses branded products to care for her baby,
including formula milk, but also other items such as nappies: “Therefore it is editorially
justified for these products to appear in the programme when we see her performing routine
childcare tasks, such as changing and feeding her baby”. It emphasised that feeding is a
prominent part of the experience of parenting, arguing that the references to Aptamil
included in the programme were all editorially driven: “The programme does therefore
often show Ferne either breast feeding Sunday, or preparing formula milk for her”.
In the first of these sequences, Ferne was running late for an appointment, as she had to
change her baby. There was a close-up shot of Aptamil products on a table which in Ofcom’s
view did not have any obvious relationship to the narrative of this scene. ITV said that the
shot of the Aptamil products was editorially justified because it reflected the fact that Ferne
was caring for her baby while packing her things in preparation for her appointment. It also
argued more generally that it was editorially justified for items related to childcare, including
formula milk, to appear incidentally in this programme. However, we considered that the
nature of the shot, a zoom into a close-up with the branding clearly visible, went beyond an
incidental appearance, instead drawing attention to the brand.
The second sequence featured Ferne packing for her holiday. She first held up an Aptamil
product, with its branding clearly visible, while discussing whether she should pack it or
attempt to buy it while away. ITV argued that this visual and verbal reference was editorially
justified, as it was integral to the narrative of the programme. Ofcom accepted that this
reference more closely related to the immediate context within which it appeared, and that
its inclusion was appropriately limited. In reaching this view we took into account that the
brand Aptamil was not verbally identified, and that the product was not pictured in close-up.
Later in the same sequence, Ferne’s open suitcase, containing an Aptamil product among
other items, was shown in a number of shots, including some close-ups. Again, ITV argued
that these visual references to Aptamil were editorially justified, because Ferne’s difficulty in
packing her suitcase was central to the sequence. It also pointed out that the Aptamil
product was one of a number of items featured and was not given special emphasis, with
only a few close-ups, none of which were “contrived” or “gratuitous”. Although Ofcom
accepted that these shots had some relevance to the context within which they were
included, we considered that the number of shots featuring the Aptamil product, together
with the additional focus provided by the use of close-ups, was excessive.
The third sequence, which lasted around five seconds, featured Ferne preparing an Aptamil
product as she was getting ready to leave for her holiday. The visual reference appeared
relevant and appropriately limited in this context, particularly as no branding was visible.
The fourth sequence was similar to the first, in that it included a close-up shot of an Aptamil
product lasting approximately three seconds. The shot occurred as Ferne was reflecting on
her first holiday with Sunday, and, according to ITV, illustrated the paraphernalia required for
such a trip, as well as relating to Ferne’s statement that it had been hard work. In Ofcom’s
view, this shot appeared to linger on the product, and had no obvious connection to the
corresponding narrative of the programme, beyond the fact that it was related to caring for a
In conclusion, Ofcom considered the first and fourth sequences lacked sufficient contextual
justification. While the second and third sequences more closely corresponded with the
narrative of their immediate context, the overall effect of all four sequences taken together
was that the programme gave undue exposure to the Aptamil brand.
Taking this into
, Ofcom considered that the visual and verbal references to Aptamil were unduly
prominent. Accordingly, Ofcom’s Decision is that the content was in breach of Rule 9.5.
1. You can't product place in "children's programmes"
2. The product placement guidelines state this: