Jesus Christ ... Salesman?

By Dionne Christian

When it comes to celebrating the music of Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber, who better to sing his praises - and a number of his fabulous songs - than New Zealander Delia Hannah whose star has soared thanks to his shows?

Lyricist Tim Rice, left, and composer Andrew Lloyd Webber. Photo / AP
Lyricist Tim Rice, left, and composer Andrew Lloyd Webber. Photo / AP

His ability to transform water into wine is well known. But now Jesus Christ will endorse the Magnifica bean-to-cup cappuccino coffee maker as ITV offers brands the chance to embed their products in its new search to find a West End star.

The Magnifica is expected to play a starring role in ITV1's next talent show, a Saturday night search for the lead in a new production of Jesus Christ Superstar, with Andrew Lloyd Webber heading the judging panel.

Sir Tim Rice, the hit musical's lyricist, has already called the show "tasteless" and "tacky" after warning that it would be "ill-advised to have people voting for who should be Jesus".

His concerns about the programme's overt commercialisation may not be allayed by the news that ITV is asking brands to provide products which will be demonstrated on camera by the singing finalists.

In an email exchange seen by the Independent, ITV said it was "looking for a company to supply a new Saturday night prime-time programme with a coffee machine to be used by the talent".

The plea was forwarded to the brand manager of De'Longhi, producers of high-end coffee machines. An account executive from Clarion Communications, De'Longhi's PR agency, replied that the opportunity "sounds great!"

She wrote: "The show is a talent show looking for the next Jesus Christ Superstar lead role with Andrew Lloyd Webber. They require two coffee machines to sit in the competitors' house kitchen (it can be a machine of our choice so we suggest providing a Magnifica), and in return De'Longhi get a credit on the website, which can include a blurb about the products, a logo and a link to the De'Longhi website."

The machines will be used for the "full length of filming which will be until the autumn". The De'Longhi brand manager agrees, writing: "Let's go ahead. I would suggest Magnifica too."

Viewers expressed concern that performances of the rock opera's climactic song, The Crucifixion, could be halted while Jesus samples a cup from the £300 ($580) Magnifica ESAM4200, a fully automated "bean-to-cup" machine with integrated coffee bean grinder.

Vivienne Pattison, director of viewers' association Mediawatch UK, said: "It shows that with product placement, anything goes. The purpose isn't to make better programmes for viewers but to deliver viewers to advertisers."

However, claims that product placement, a commonplace feature in US television shows such as Mad Men, could generate £100 million a year in the UK have proved optimistic.

A ban on "junk food" placement means ITV cannot scatter cans of Coca-Cola in front of Simon Cowell on The X Factor.

Paid-for branding is not allowed in children's, news, consumer affairs or religious shows - ITV's Superstar series is classified as entertainment.

- Independent

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