Devices Opinion

TV’s New Rule: Celebrities Only Use iPhones (and iPads)

Must Be The Music is the new music talent show airing on BSkyB’s Sky One channel in the United Kingdom.  It’s quite different from X-Factor or American Idol, principally because it appears to feature people and groups with talent, rather than a parade of idiot wannabes.

Now that BBC’s Sherlock has finished, it’s one of the only things I bother watching.  The show features three judges who clearly know what they’re talking about: Jamie Cullum, Charleen Spiteri and Dizzee Rascal.  Together, they deliver good quality appreciation and feedback to the acts auditioning.  Whilst there is the odd tuneless wannabe included for entertainment value, the producers don’t keep them on-screen for long.  If you get the chance, do stop in and watch the series.  I think you can see a lot of videos online on their website too.


The show is sponsored by UK mobile retailing giant, Phones4U.  The company is no stranger to television advertising and they clearly pick and choose their sponsorships based on the expected audience profile.  For Sky One — a premium channel only available on Sky and other cable providers — to be able to attract such a premium sponsor is impressive.  Clearly the audience profile is most definitely going to be interested in mobile telephones.  Dizzee Rascal himself, the Rap Star, has a simply massive following, particularly from the youth, so I expect they’re viewing in their millions.

I mention Phones4U’s involvement and the mobile audience profile because I want to highlight how the rest of the marketplace, particularly the mobile handset manufacturers that aren’t named Apple, are completely nailed. And are going to be nailed for years to come.

Apple Apple Apple Apple Apple Apple

It is now virtually impossible to watch any popular television show featuring famous folk (or ‘celebrities’) using mobile phones without those handsets being iPhones. Or iPads. As far as the celebrity world goes, you can’t get better than an iBrand device. If there’s a laptop on screen, it’s an Apple (with the Apple logo covered up on many BBC shows). If there’s a desktop featured, it’s got to be iMac. [Dizzee appears sitting in front of no less than two ultra-new iMacs the other night.]

Of course there’s a heck of a lot of old-rubbish-phones being featured in dramas and in TV movies. When the props people get involved, they invariably pick appropriate handsets. It would be inappropriate to see some down-and-out tramp using an £800 iPhone, for example.  Instead, they’ll kit him out with a Pay-As-You-Go rubbish phone. Middle-aged-Mondeo-Man will usually have some unspecified Nokia or Sony Ericsson. Something that’s relevant to their situation. But when we get into the real world, all that changes.

When it comes to reality shows where we have to see actual real celebrities using their phones, the rule is now iPhone-only. Have you noticed? It is both exciting and utterly annoying.  I’m excited to see the iPhone spreading to all corners of society — but I’m utterly annoyed that no enterprising handset brands have got involved to make sure that an appropriate percentage of high profile celebrities are using their handsets.  Whilst Paris Hilton always seems to have the latest BlackBerry (good work, RIM), the lower echelons of our celebrity world appear to only have eyes for iBrand.

It doesn’t stop at iPhone

Throughout the recent Must Be The Music semi-finalist reveal shows, Fearne Cotton, the presenter, was regularly seen holding her white iPhone up calling another act on the speakerphone to announce their acceptance into the semi final.  I had to wince when — just before every advert — the judges were shown in their deliberations each using a top-of-the-range 3G version iPad to sweep through the candidates.  I actually stopped the TV at this moment and took the above photo, just to show.

Look at the photo again

Three of the UK’s top music artists are each sitting there messing around on their iPads.

And we’ve had an iPhone on screen at least every 3 minutes.

Fearne’s phone of choice is, one imagines, not directed by the producers.  If she was using a Nokia, I’ve no doubt they’d have filmed that perfectly fine too.  But the producers chose to kit out the judges with their own iPads. Further, the producers event went about installing photos/video of all the acts *on* to the iPads to allow the judges to flick about on camera.

Now, it makes a lot of sense — it’s a lot more visual than seeing the judges arsing around with cheapo Poloroid photos — but this most certainly pushes the iBrand even further into the living rooms of the United Kingdom.

It’s All About The Message

The message to the audience of Must Be The Music is that the cool people use iPhones. Some of the acts are shown receiving their winning notification calls on a plethora of phones from other manufacturers, clearly delineating between the cool and the not-yet-cool.

Viewers are left in no doubt that the iDevices are the way ahead. What’s even better for viewers is that thanks to the changing marketplace and Apple’s relaxation of tariff constraints, you can now pick-up an iPhone (‘just-like-wot-Fearne-Cotton-has’) on £25 and £30 contracts.

Manufacturers would do well do start kitting out certain celebrities with free phones.  Or paying them to use their phones.  It’s important.  People really do value what they see celebrities wearing and using.

What would it take to get Fearne Cotton to use a Samsung Galaxy S or a Sony Ericsson X10 Mini Pro, instead of an iPhone?  Probably a lot of money as chances are — if she’s like any other celebrity — she’ll love her iPhone. I’ve no doubt this is already going on however I wonder if PR firms are finding that celebrities aren’t interested in other devices right now? Is the iPhone/iPad/iOS brand simply too strong at the moment?

I’d like to see a good variety of top-of-the-range handsets used on our screens. I used to enjoy seeing a variety of Nokia handsets (like the E90) in use across all sorts of shows. I can’t help but be rather concerned that the message given out by all these television shows is almost exclusively: ‘iPhone Good, Everything Else Bad.’

Do you agree?  Do you think it matters?

By Ewan

Ewan is Founder and Editor of Mobile Industry Review. He writes about a wide variety of industry issues and is usually active on Twitter most days. You can read more about him or reach him with these details.

9 replies on “TV’s New Rule: Celebrities Only Use iPhones (and iPads)”

Isn't it really the not-so-subtle “product placement” the tv channels want to officially introduce into television programming in this country?

Well, that all depends on whether they're being paid to do it or not. I suspect that most of them aren't being paid — they're just choosing to use Apple

“viewing in their millions…” err, not quite – TV programmes often have a lot less viewing that you'd think as the figures from the Guardian for the show illustrate:

7pm: Must Be the Music – 328,000/1.6%

All ratings are Barb overnight figures, including live and same day timeshifted (recorded) viewing, but excluding on demand, HD, +1 or other – unless otherwise stated

Yes they are estimates but not finger in the air type approximations but rather based on a representative panel of 5k tv homes which is accepted as standard by the whole tv industry. The Barb figures are used to calculate how much advertisers need to pay broadcasters for their slots

I probably shouldn’t be admitting that I watch this, but in the recent season of US teen drama 90210, shown here in the UK on E4, one of the main characters was using a T-Mobile myTouch 3G (a.k.a. the HTC Magic) in lots of episodes. In the first season they were using the T-Mobile G1 and Sidekick (Google for ‘90210 T-mobile’ for evidence). Definite product placement though.

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