Saturday, May 3, 2014

Survivor SA: Champions on M-Net and host Nico Panagio trash their brands by shilling for Outsurance and turning it into an infomercial.

Shamelessly exploiting real emotion and turning it into empty sentimentalism, Survivor SA: Champions on M-Net (DStv 101) and host Nico Panagio damaged their brands by turning the latest episode of the reality show into a crass Outsurance life insurance infomercial, taking in-show product placement in South African television just too far.

M-Net, producer Endemol South Africa, and Nico Panagio damaged the South African version of Survivor in a way CBS, Mark Burnett Productions and Jeff Probst would never do or even consider for the American version, when Nico Panagio suddenly turned Outsurance infomercial spokesperson in episode 15 of Survivor SA: Champions.

While Survivor SA made use of product placement since the first season - and quite cleverly, properly and appropriately previously when Pick n Pay was a sponsor - the latest episode of Survivor SA: Champions on M-Net went too far in the latest episode.

It damages not just the integrity of the show and a brand like Survivor and Survivor SA overall, but the credibility and integrity of Nico Panagio, and M-Net as a TV channel.

When the remaining Survivor SA: Champions contestants were united with their mothers, Endemol South Africa, M-Net and life insurer Outsurance came together to have Nico Panagio launch into a long and shocking in-show infomercial soliloquy, damaging the episode ... forever.

How this trashy infomercial insertion will come across in future in potential reruns if there ever are any, when it just randomly gets broadcast, is probably not even a worry for M-Net now; how the show will play in future, and look editorially, seemingly an after-thought.

The pay-TV broadcaster is apparently more focused on giving in-show programming time to a sponsor because it makes balance sheet sense now - in order "to get something out": money. But this "native advertising" can never be undone and is a scar inflicted which didn't need to be there.

Standing with their mothers with obligatory nods to camera - as if to signal and strengthen with their non-verbal nods agreement of the planted message for commercial gain - Nico Panagio shamelessly shilled for Outsurance on Survivor SA: Champions.

"Now here's a thought: Just like you guys were covered from head to toe in mud in this challenge, Outsurance has a range of comprehensive life insurance to ensure the well-being of your family," Nico Panagio told the contestants - and viewers - with a straight face.

"And because everyone's situation is different, you can tailor make your cover, to suit you specific needs; ensuring your family's well-being; giving you peace of mind and them as well. And security of course."

"And we also all know, that you always get something out with Outsurance. And today's winner of this challenge, definitely gets something out," said Nico Panagio.

It was too much.

Trash television like this, terribly done, belongs as a separate stand-alone infomercial in wasteland mid-morning television.

It doesn't belong in a so-called premium, made for prime time TV production. It cheapens not just the overall production values of a show like Survivor SA: Champions, it sells out everything and everyone in it.

And why stop with one? Strangely the pizza in the Survivor SA: Champions episode on M-Net wasn't preceded by a Panarottis infomercial; there was no Cardies infomercials for the tearful moms' moments.

If a premium pay-TV broadcaster like M-Net cannot make a show without keeping a sponsor contained to ads during commercial breaks and bumpers, and is unable to seamlessly and cleverly integrate product placement sensitively and discreetly as an editorially functional element into a show, what does it say about South African television and TV production?

That we can't have TV, big TV, or "good" TV without commercial considerations blatantly intruding and having companies riding rough shot over, and into, the narratives of show?

The TV irony here is that with a cheap and awfully done Outsurance infomercial slap bang inside Survivor SA: Champions on M-Net, it is the ordinary TV viewer who gets the least out of it of everyone.