Netflix turns Rowan Atkinson’s Man vs Bee into shop window for luxe products

·3 min read
Rowan Atkinson
Rowan Atkinson

One of the great benefits of a Netflix subscription is that there are no adverts.

But anyone who watches the streaming service’s new Rowan Atkinson comedy, Man vs Bee, could be forgiven for thinking otherwise.

From Waitrose capers to Miele appliances, the show is stuffed with close-ups of products.

Reviewers have complained about the “unremitting” product placement. But the brands did not pay to be included. Instead, the makers of the show bought the products and included them as a means of illustrating the couple’s luxury lifestyle.

Atkinson plays hapless housesitter Trevor Bingley, who arrives to look after the home of a wealthy couple (played by Jing Lusi and Julian Rhind-Tutt), with disastrous results.

In the opening minutes, the homeowners show Atkinson’s character around their kitchen and point out their “special-edition Miele” dishwasher. Atkinson’s bed is in a utility room next to a Miele washing machine, ensuring that every shot of him in bed features the Miele logo.

Rowan Atkinson Man vs Bee
Rowan Atkinson Man vs Bee

For his first meal in the house, Trevor opens a cupboard and viewers get a close-up shot of Waitrose French onion and red wine soup. When he steps into the shower, the camera lingers on shampoo by cult brand Aesop.

The show also features Waitrose capers, Tiptree ketchup and President butter, plus a Miele tumble dryer, microwave and vacuum cleaner. The couple leave the house to go on holiday, with their Rimowa luggage prominently in shot.

Darryl Collis, director of specialist product placement agency Seesaw Media, said unpaid product placement is becoming increasingly common, as shows can benefit from the cache of particular brands.

“I can see why they have used these brands. The design of the house has to scream taste, elegance and affluence, and these products are a shorthand for the couple’s lifestyle.

“Sometimes it benefits a brand to be in a show, but sometimes the show benefits from having the brand in it. It’s a shorthand for this couple’s lifestyle,” Collis said.

Jing Lusi
Jing Lusi

The rise in streaming services means that product placement is becoming more important as an alternative to traditional advertising.

“During the pandemic, we saw a 30 per cent increase in enquiries from brands looking to get on screen, because they saw how much content was being consumed. And the great thing about getting on Netflix shows is that they are global,” said Collis, who predicted that all the featured products would see a rise in sales.

“It does work. I wouldn’t be in business if it didn’t,” he said.

The most expensive prop in the show was loaned, rather than bought. It is the oldest surviving Jaguar E-type, which Trevor duly ruins.

While designers made a replica for Trevor to destroy, the owner did lend the real thing for some shots.

Atkinson explained: “It is the oldest E-type Jag in existence, star of the Geneva Motor Show, and its registration number is 9600 HP. It is a very famous car and it is worth £2 million.”

The actor purchased the replica to add to his car collection. “I occasionally race cars and I raced an E-type in the Le Mans Classic about 15 years ago, and [it is] a very beautiful car. So the replica we made in this show, I bought.”

Man vs Bee
Man vs Bee

As for the luxury home featured in the show – it is not all it seems.

While the interiors were sets built in a studio, the exterior was entirely computer-generated. Atkinson said: “We were shooting during the height of lockdowns and covid, and no one with a real house was prepared to let us in.

“No matter how much money you tried to ply them with, they didn’t want a film crew in the house.”

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