Sunday 30 April 2017

Comment: Problem of non-stop plugging and Pippa

Kirsty at large

Product placement: Pippa O'Connor Ormond talks POCO jeans, shows pictures of the jeans and the naming process of her jeans on The Late Late Show
Product placement: Pippa O'Connor Ormond talks POCO jeans, shows pictures of the jeans and the naming process of her jeans on The Late Late Show
Blot on the landscape: the origin sculpture
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Kirsty Blake Knox

Kirsty Blake Knox

People complain about RTÉ researchers raiding the canteen for The Late Late Show sofa but there is a now a new catchment area of easy-to-get guests. The Influencers.

Last Friday night, blogger and business woman Pippa O'Connor Ormond appeared on RTÉ's flagship show once again.

She's appeared several times in recent years - talking about her website, or discussing her book, or chatting about her Fashion Factories.

This time she and her business partner and husband, Brian Ormond, were yapping away about their jeans line POCO.

The segment was 12 minutes long and felt more like advertorial than entertainment.

Host Ryan Tubridy reacted to everything Pippa said with a remarkable sense of astonishment.

"When we first told people we were selling the jeans online - people were saying 'Really are you serious?'" Pippa told him. "People thought we were mad."

Shopping online? Revolutionary.

But Ryan simply nodded in agreement, adding for the benefit of viewers "because that's the thing with jeans - people like to try them on".

Then they showed pictures of the different jeans Pippa makes and listened to her explain the naming process.

Ryan did move the conversation away from POCO at times - asking how Pippa and Brian keep the spark alive in their relationship (cheers for that) and speaking to Pippa about the death of her mother in 2014.

But these topics were secondary to the lead act; the jeans.

I'm bringing it all up because the issue of advertising and product placement was raised this week by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland at the launch of its new Code of Communications.

They addressed a lot of topics like the presence of fortune tellers on TV ads, and exactly how long an ad break should be.

There were also rules that seem a little obvious - like alcohol ads can't feature children knocking back bottles of rum.

I thought there would be some regulations regarding influencers relentlessly plugging brands on air but there was no reference to them at all.

In fact, the board looked completely dumbfounded and muttered about individual complaints when the issue was raised.

But Pippa is a brand - and she is selling a product.

Giving her that much airtime on The Late Late is like having the CEO of Coca Cola Ireland on to chat about Coke Zero.

When asked about RTÉ employing influencers and encouraging viewers to follow them on social media - where they are subject to none of the restrictions RTÉ presenters are - the BAI simply evaded the question by saying that was none of its business. "We only deal with broadcasting," was their unimaginative response before moving the conversation swiftly on.

We all know how we watch TV has changed pretty radically - sitting in front of a TV set is a dying habit.

In the UK, the average age of people tuning into the BBC on TV sets is 61, the average age of those watch Channel 4 is 55, while E4 - a channel that pitches itself as 'yoof driven' -attracts viewers with an average age of 42. Clearly, the numbers of people viewing TV on sets is dwindling.

It's something Communications Minister Denis Naughten recognises - which explains why he wants to apply the TV licence fee to laptops and iPods. But it seems the BAI is determined to bury its head in the sand.

RTÉ director general Dee Forbes was right when she said it's a case of 'adapt or die' in today's media landscape.

And the BAI needs to change its way of thinking, and address issues that matter, instead of focusing on fortune tellers and psychics, if it wants to begin to be relevant.

Steeling themselves: tough week for northern neighbours

It has been, by any stretch of the imagination, a difficult week for our northern neighbours

Article 50 was triggered, it looks like the border's going back up, and most people spent more time talking about Sarah Vine and "Legs-it" than the reality of Brexit. (Understandable really, her article was hilarious - though not for the reasons she probably intended).

As if to add insult to injury Belfast's Origin Sculpture was named the UK's ugliest piece of public art this week.

The 11 metre high statue, which was erected last September, was intended to look like a giant raindrop suspended in the sky.

However, it failed to impress The Spectator magazine which awarded the Origin the not so prestigious 'What's That Thing?' gong.

Perched on Squire's Hill in Cavehill Country Park, the piece cost the best part of €100,000 and was meant to reflect the cultural heritage of the city.

However, The Spectator's description is less than favourable.

"Imagine climbing the hills that surround Belfast and stumbling upon this 11-metre-high steel bollock," it says.

It also describes the art work as "clumsy, aggressive, and cheap-looking" and criticise those who commissioned the sculpture saying it highlights the dangers of "art-world groupthink".

"In the name of 'peace' and 'economic regeneration', the Arts Council of Northern Ireland has littered the region with tat," the piece states.

"If they were a person, we'd lock them up for fly-tipping". Yikes.

Public art is always difficult to get right - just look at the 'Floozie in the Jacuzzi', the 'Tart with the Cart' and 'The Stiletto in the Ghetto'.

Having torn the Origin to pieces The Spectator concludes by asking; "Haven't the people of Northern Ireland suffered enough?"

I think we can all agree on that.

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