Channel 4 is understood to be seeking a “boring” brand to sponsor Celebrity Big Brother, which returns early next year, after struggling to ignite interest from more “edgy” advertisers.
The broadcaster is believed to be urging agencies to consider brands with values that would traditionally clash with Celebrity Big Brother. It is suggesting that an association with the show could generate new interest in “boring” or forgotten brands.
Industry sources suggest the move is because of a general lack of interest from the market, but they add the channel is being upfront about the negative headlines the show may generate.
Celebrity Big Brother will return in the New Year, after a one-year hiatus following the controversy surrounding the last series. It caused a worldwide storm after housemates, including Jade Goody, were accused of bullying Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty.
The furore led the then sponsor Carphone Warehouse, which paid £3m for both the flagship show and the celebrity spin-off, to pull out midway through the series.
At the time, Channel 4 chairman Luke Johnson and chief executive Andy Duncan came under fire for their handling of the situation.
Virgin Media took over sponsorship of the Big Brother franchise in 2007, but declined to extend the contract into 2009. A Channel 4 spokeswoman says it is in advanced talks with an advertiser and a decision is imminent.
One media buyer says Channel 4 executives suggested that the sponsorship would be ideal for a slipping brand, perceived as “boring”, that needs “a short, sharp reinvigoration”.
“While some of it might not be fantastic, it has car-crash TV appeal,” he adds. “But it’s very expensive – a lot of money at the moment. Who’s going to pay £4m for Big Brother?”