on a visit to Edinburgh's Fringe Festival this weekend Mediation was lucky enough to catch a performance of Pot Noodle: The Musical. created by Mother Vision, the show is a surreal and entertaining hour long advert for Pot Noodle – and it doesn't really pretend to be anything else. in fact its quite clear on the matter… its an ad. it knows it is. its written in the script.
I couldn't help but contrast this to the recent discussion and debate there's been around MG OMD's AFP for the Home Office. Beat: Life on the Street was a Sunday night show first broadcast last year on ITV. the show is now reportedly being investigated by Ofcom amid concerns it broke the broadcasting code requiring that programmes "must not influence the content and/or scheduling of a channel or
programme in such a way as to impair the responsibility and editorial
independence of the broadcaster".
so what we have here are two very different bits of content, each designed to form part of the brand narrative for two very different organisations. but whereas one has (at the time of writing) a two and a bit star rating on the Fringe website, the other is being investigated by the regulator. what sent them in such different directions?
well… what divides them is transparency. Pot Noodle's musical has it, and Beat: Life on the Street just doesn't.
you can't make a programme that's funded by the Government and which is specifically designed to change people's perceptions of a state organisation and not tell people thats what it is and what its trying to do. that's not smart media planning, its propaganda.
what's such a shame is the strategy from MG OMD is great. in a video on the site, Head of Strategy Jon Gittings comments that the aim of the the programme was to amplify the real experience the public has with PCSOs, to:
"use communication to recreate [the] direct content that would then go on to increase value [of PCSOs] … we would create virtual experiences that bring PCSOs and the community together"
thats great thinking. de-branding it is not. brands have to be explicit about their intent. whether you make noodle snacks or uphold the law, you have to protect your integrity. say what you like about Pot Noodle making a musical, they were up front about what they were doing…
as one comment on the Fringe site notes: "I doubt that i'll ever be convinced that branded shows at Edinburgh are
a good thing but i struggle to criticise when i'm entertained as such".
well I doubt that I'll ever need convincing that smart relevant content creation – including AFP – can play a part on many a schedule; but I'll sure as hell won't struggle to criticise it when brands and (worse) their agencies think they can do so without being honest about the communications' intent.
thanks to Phil who pointed me in the direction of a BBC report on Pot Noodle which includes an interview with the creatives from Mother who devised the thing…