The scourge of SA reality TV prizes

2012-09-11 08:57
When Britain's Got Talent airs in the UK viewers get to win a snack pack of enviable prizes. Here's an example of one of their prize packages:

- A flat screen TV
- A Blu-ray home theatre system
- An iPad
- An iPod with a docking station
- A Nintendo Wii with a selection of games
- A Sony PSP2 with a game
- 7 inch portable DVD player
- Tickets to the Britain’s Got Talent semi-finals
- Automatic entry into a competition to win £50 000 at the end of the season (R652 251)

All that for one lucky viewer. A similar prize every episode.

What happens in reality shows in South Africa? Not even the winner or finalists of a show win such a generous pack. No, no, instead they get to suffer borrowed cars, restaurants on loan and vouchers that can only get them bottom-of-the-range goods.

The scourge of South African reality TV prizes first hit with the design show The Cut: South Africa in 2006 when the series offered the winner a borrowed car from Woolworths.

If you didn't see the horror - believe it, it happened.  The winner won a job at Woolworths for a year (fair enough), cash on a Woolworths card (cool) and the use of a car for the year of their job.

Thankfully Woolworths saw the light and graciously changed the prize during the series so that the winner won a new Tata car of their own.

Reality winners haven't been as lucky recently though because shows have been increasingly embracing their inner Scrooge. This year we've seen an avalanche of them with three shows grabbing top spot as Most Stingy.

Recipe for heartburn
The first is MasterChef, obviously. As you may know, there's been a controversy surrounding the winner Deena Naidoo's prize with allegations that M-Net misled contestants about what the prize was exactly. The question at the centre of it all: was the prize to own the MondoVino restaurant at Montecasino or to be in charge of it?

My take on it is that it's a crap prize either way. Just because someone loves cooking and wants to win the title of MasterChef doesn't mean that they want to uproot their lives and move into the world of management.

Organising staff, bossing people around, etc. - these are a large part of running or owning a restaurant and isn't something that the majority of contestants seemed interested in.  The prize should simply have been a more substantial cash haul. Even R500 000 would have been a better prize.

"Give the dream back!"
My Top Billing Dream Presenter Search also delivered a whammy of cheap when Jonathan Boynton-Lee won the recent reality search. Winning the presenting gig was cool but car prize sucked.

Both Jonathan and a viewer won the use of a Mercedes for six months - not even a year as in The Cut. It's much worse than not winning anything because now they're going to have it taken away from them. Picturing the day that it happens fills me with a sense of dread for them - not the way a prize should make you feel.

That's all you can afford?
And don't get me started on the prizes that the Idols Top 10 got.

The package included R5000 from Yamaha for a guitar or keyboard. What sort of guitar or keyboard can you get for that? Not top of the range, that's for sure. Even if it wasn't tops but somewhere in between, that would be okay. Just don't give the very least that you can possibly give.

The thing I don't understand is why any company would do it. You'd think that they'd want their brand to come across as looking successful. Generous and bold prizes suggest that they're affluent, popular and successful whereas stingy prizes suggest the complete opposite.

Why would a company want that as part of their marketing message? If you ask me they'd be much better served to stay out of the competition game if they can't afford a prize.

Tashi Tagg is the editor of TVSA.

How do you feel about prizes on South African reality TV shows? Send us your views - e-mail

Borrowed cars, restaurants on loan and bottom-of-the-range goods. A look at the stingiest prizes on SA reality TV and the marketing impact on the brands who give them.
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