Someone did raise this point on this thread:
Not in Breach
The X Factor: ITV, 21 October 2017, 20:20
The X Factor is a reality show, complied by the ITV compliance department (“ITV”) on behalf of the ITV Network. During this episode, the contestants were sent to perform at the judges’ houses and were told whether they would progress to the next stage or leave the competition. Ofcom received two complaints about references in the programme to the Three mobile phone network.
The references included:
• a scene in which a group of contestants (“the girls”) were surprised at Dublin Airport by judge Louis Walsh, who told them that instead of performing at his house, they were going to San Francisco to the home of judge Sharon Osbourne. A member of the
production team then handed one of the contestants a mobile phone and said, “Right girls, so now you know you are going to San Francisco, here’s a phone from Three to call Sharon when you arrive”. A brief shot, lasting approximately one second, showed one of
the girls holding the phone, which displayed Three branding on the back;
• a scene in which the same contestants were on a sightseeing tour of San Francisco when one of them said, “Guys, I just got a text message from Sharon”. They gathered around to read the message and the Three branding was briefly visible on the back of the phone. The shot then cut to the phone’s screen as a contestant read out, “Hi girls, hope you had a great day sightseeing in San Francisco. Now let’s have some tea and cake at mine! See you soon, Mrs O!”. Several subsequent shots of the contestants reacting to this news included sight of the Three branding on the back of the phone; and
• a scene in which a contestant was told she was going through to the next stage of the competition by Sharon, who told her to “go call your mum”. Presenter Dermot O’Leary then congratulated her and said, “Your mum’s gonna freak…go and call her”. The contestant was then shown using a mobile phone to speak to her mum in a conversation lasting approximately 22 seconds. Three branding on the back of the phone was visible several times during this conversation.
We requested information from ITV about any commercial arrangement associated with the references in the programme to Three. ITV confirmed that the references resulted from a product placement arrangement. We considered the programme raised potential issues under the following rule of the Code:
Rule 9.10: “References to placed products, services and trade marks must not be
We sought comments from ITV on how the programme complied with this rule.
Issue 346 of Ofcom’s Broadcast and On Demand Bulletin
22 January 2018
ITV said that it always gives “careful consideration” to fit product placements “as seamlessly as possible within editorial content”. It said that its primary concern is always to ensure that the use of the product in the programme feels like a “natural fit” within the editorial narrative of events, and that any verbal or visual references are not unduly prominent, or promotional of the product itself and that there must be “a suitable editorial context”. ITV continued that product placement “of a variety of diffeent technology products” had been regularly incorporated in The X Factor over the past six years, “because there is a strong editorial purpose and justification for the contestants to be seen using such devices”. It explained that over the course of a series, the contestants are often away from their homes and are therefore regularly seen talking to their families or to their mentor judges using mobile phones and tablets. It said that “these contacts may convey the importance of the support of families and friends to them emotionally, or may show them conveying exciting news of their progress in the competition, or may show them receiving advice from their mentors”. ITV provided examples of the product placement of mobile phones and tablets in previous series of The X Factor.
ITV said that the references to Three in this episode were carefully integrated into the editorial, and it believed that the placement did not distract from the story being told. It believed the use of the phone by the contestants in each scene was in keeping with how
mobile phones had been used in the programme by contestants over a number of years. It continued that the filming and editing of the scenes was carefully judged so as not to give the brand on the phone undue prominence, or more time on screen than was justified by the editorial context. Further, it said that “any close up shots of the phone were very short, and the branding was not continuously in vision in any of these scenes”. ITV concluded that it “felt that the references to Three were not unduly prominent in this context, and did not exceed the expectations of viewers of this long running series”.
Reflecting our duties under the Communications Act 20031
, Section Nine of the Code
contains rules that apply to product placement in programming. These rules include a requirement that programmes containing product placement do not give undue prominence to the placed products, services or trade marks. One of the key principles that underpin the rules in Section Nine is that a distinction is maintained between editorial content and advertising. While product
placement provides brands with scope to gain exposure for their products during programmes, it does not allow
commercial arrangements to distort programmes so that they effectively become advertising vehicles. It is for this reason that the Code limits the degree of prominence that products, services and trade marks can receive in editorial content. Ofcom’s Guidance to Section Nine2 makes clear that the prominence given to a placed product, service or trade mark will be judged against the editorial context in which it appears. The Guidance also sets out the following factors that it suggests broadcasters take
Issue 346 of Ofcom’s Broadcast and On Demand Bulletin
22 January 2018
into account when considering whether product placement is likely to give rise to issues of
• Is the placement easily accommodated editorially, or do significant changes have to be made to integrate the placement?
• Would viewers be likely to perceive the placement as natural and in keeping with the programme’s style and content?
• Does any repetition of reference to the product, in vision or sound or both, suggest that the placement is guiding or distorting editorial content?
The X Factor is a long running show and its format is familiar to many viewers. The contestants’ reactions as they progress through the competition is a key component of the programme. Their use of technology, including mobile phones, to communicate with their
judges and families is an established way in which the programme shows these reactions. The placement of a branded mobile phone therefore did appear to be in keeping with the usual narrative of the programme and no significant changes appeared to have been made in order to integrate the placement. Although there was a clear editorial basis for using the phones in the programme, we
recognised that some viewers may have been surprised by the manner in which the brand references featured. Regular viewers of The X Factor may be familiar with similar previous product placement arrangements, which have involved the placement of branded devices such as mobile phones and tablets. However, in this case, the product placement was that of a service, the mobile network
Three, rather than the placement of a specific branded product. The brand had been integrated into t h e editorial by way of a single verbal reference and the addition of a logo on to the back of the mobile phones used by the contestants. We considered that while viewers may find this placement more conspicuous than the placement of a traditionally branded product (e.g. a phone that has a manufacturer’s logo already embedded in its design), the placement was not significantly out of keeping with the programme’s style and content. Further, the references were limited, both in volume and duration, and did not suggest that the placement had distorted the established style and format of the series. Ofcom’s view is therefore that this programme was not in breach of Rule 9.10.
Not in Breach of Rule 9.10