Logo Lolly

“Logo Lolly” is, or was, the practice of paying radio news reporters a bonus if they managed to get their radio microphone muffs (ie. covers) or collars into shot on the TV news. I’ve heard of at least two places where this certainly used to be the case. You’d get more money if you made a national news bulletin than a local one.

While I don’t know if anyone still actually pays a bonus for doing this these days, it’s pretty clear that it’s still common practice to try to get microphones into camera shot.

But I really do have a problem with the whole thing.

A case in point was the tragic helicopter crash on the North Norfolk coast earlier this week. The news broke on Tuesday evening, and sometime around 11pm there was a statement from a senior policeman on the scene saying that there had indeed been four fatalities and that the area had been cordoned off. The deaths had been expected. I was watching this live on one of the TV news channels. But there – poking into view – was the vivid coloured logo of a certain radio station.

No other microphones were in view. They didn’t need to be. Microphones are perfectly sensitive enough that they don’t need to be thrust into someone’s face aside from in the noisiest conditions.

By conducting this practice, you’re essentially saying that a sad or tragic news event is a marketing opportunity for your brand. That’s certainly the message you’re sending to the viewer.

It’s probably worse today than it used to be because the muffs or collars have become more vivid or garish than ever before.

The following morning, and another press statement at the scene of the accident as things became clearer. There again was the station microphone – front and centre in the screen.

Just to be clear, nearly every station is or has been guilty of this practice. But it’s not for nothing that more organised press conferences these days don’t have a forest microphones on the desk, but simply a single shared one, and a mixing desk elsewhere in the room where a reporter can take a feed for their service.

I may have highlighted one incidence, but it happens a lot, and it looks cheap and tawdry. Does it make me think that your station is the home for important breaking news? I don’t believe it does. If a station wants to renowned for its news output then surely its own broadcasts are the place to do it.

I’m not saying that there isn’t a place for getting your branding out there. Indeed some lighter stories might be fine for it. But it feels very wrong when there are serious or tragic circumstances.

And are news TV organisations guilty of this? Well not nearly as much. Yes, they probably have branded microphone muffs or collars, and they have their news vehicles on the scene, but they simply don’t need to be as in your face. I’m afraid that this is largely a radio problem.

Ofcom doesn’t allow the sponsorship of the news. But I suspect that few brands would want to be associated with major tragic events. Do you really want to use those same events as a marketing exercise for your brand?