Loan company’s £1m deal for ITV1’s Saturday night game show under fire from Labour MP Stella Creasy
Controversial short-term loan company Wonga.com has struck a deal understood to be worth £1m to sponsor the second series of Simon Cowell’s ITV1 gameshow Red or Black?.
The new series, which is hosted by Anthony McPartlin and Declan Donnelly, will air on ITV1 on Saturday nights for seven weeks from later this month.
Wonga’s sponsorship of the high-profile programme, which will use the slogan “Straight talking money”, immediately came under fire from Labour MP Stella Creasy.
Creasy, who has described such firms as as legal loan sharks, tweeted on Wednesday urging people to tweet Ant and Dec’s official Twitter account and email the general inquiry email address of their agent to protest about the sponsorship.
“Wonga is wronga until there’s caps on the cost of credit,” she tweeted.
Wonga has come in for criticism from Creasy and other opponents of high-cost lenders, which entice consumers with large advertising budgets spent on extensive TV, press and outdoor campaigns.
Last month the Advertising Standards Authority received 82 complaints about the way Wonga markets and targets its advertising, but cleared the company of any wrongdoing.
Darryl Bowman, head of marketing at Wonga.com, said that the Red or Black? was the perfect platform for pushing its “straight talking” message and getting more customers.
“We’re pleased to be supporting such a big show which, like our service, has been a hit with a mainstream audience from the beginning,” Bowman added. “We’re excited about bringing our ‘straight talking’ take to Saturday nights. This sponsorship will be another great way for us to continue raising awareness of our brand and services.”
“Wonga is a well known brand and the sponsorship of Red or Black is fully compliant with Ofcom regulations,” said an ITV spokeswoman.
It is not known how much Wonga paid for the deal, which includes broadcast, online and mobile sponsorship, but last year’s show was sponsored by pizza company Domino’s for £1m.
The first series of Red or Black?, which is a co-production between ITV Studios and Cowell’s production company Syco, was not the unqualified success both sides had hoped for.
With live filming at Wembley arena, big-budget stunts, a host of guest stars and potential to win £1m a night – there were four winners out of seven episodes – the show was one of the most expensive ever to air on TV.
However, Red or Black? failed to live up to expectations with the audience dropping significantly after the first night, leaving programme makers with the job of cutting production costs and changing the format before getting the green light for a second series.
ITV confirmed details of the new-look show in March with new elements including the need for more skill and judgment to win – after the decision that simply choosing red or black did not provide enough jeopardy and tension for viewers – pre-recording the show and changing how prize money is paid out.
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