Back in 1973, the BBC banned the singles"The Cover of the Rolling Stone" by Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show and "Kodachrome" by Paul Simon because--get this--the songs mentioned commercial products in their lyrics (never mind their titles). Such was the purity between the country's separation of commercial church and state.
So it's with much hypocritical delight that I read about the Edinburgh Festival debut of "Pot Noodle: The Musical," a show based on the Unilever snack product, and funded by its London-based ad agency, Mother. The show, described as "very loosely based on Hamlet, in which a team of singing, dancing factory workers pluck noodles from trees," stars a character who also stars in the snack's TV ads.
My, how times have changed. When I used to run Just For Laughs, I would attend the Edinburgh Fest every August and would be viewed with disdain by the omnipresent ruling lefties who would openly sneer at me for the overtly commercial act of wearing a Nike t-shirt.
Ed Warren, a creative exec at Mother, told Advertising Age that: "The age of using adverts as a megaphone to yell at people and irritate them is coming to an end. If you are smart and have a message to get across, you have to do it in a way that's agreeable, sensitive and welcome."
While the debate whether a play about noodle soup is either sensitive or agreeable still rages, it further blurs the line between what's an ad and what's content these days. An article in last week's Entertainment Weekly entitled "Ad Nauseam" pondered "Has product placement gone too far, or is it just getting started?", but facing, as Joseph Jaffe would put it "Life After the 30 Second Spot," showbiz has little choice but to acquiesce to the power of Madison Avenue...or its British equiavalent (Saatchi Square perhaps?). This is particularly true since some of the "ads" (like Blendtec's "Will it Blend?" series and its ilk) are more entertaining than the so-called content they append, interrupt, or compete against.
"Product Placement" into shows will soon be a term of the past, as shows like "Pot Noodle: The Musical" (and others like the ill-fated ABC series based on the Geico Cavemen) will usher in a new term: "Content Moulding" around products.
As brilliant and off-beat as they are, another Pot Noodle ad is just that--another ad. By smashing the boundaries into smithereens, Mother and co. have "shocked the system" (to use the parlance of Surprise Central) and given people something to talk about.
I wonder if the BBC is playing the show's soundtrack? ;)