Square eyes, dry throats?
April 16, 2017 PCP Market Research

Square eyes, dry throats?

The challenge

Our client wanted to see if UK television programmes were positively impacting drink choices amongst consumers.

We were commissioned to undertake a detailed analysis of how water was portrayed on UK television.


We looked at:

  • The amount of programme time in which drinks were shown
  • How often water was shown compared with other drinks such as tea or fizzy drinks
  • The circumstances in which water was portrayed in the programme
  • Any differences by type of programme or between BBC and ITV
  • The profile of the person handling, consuming, intending to consume or mentioning to the drink

Our approach

We carefully monitored two separate weeks of television programmes. Soap operas, dramas, sitcoms and children’s programmes were carefully selected. All programmes were produced in the UK and set in the present day. We also monitored The Archers on Radio 4 noting any mention of a drink being consumed or planned for a later time.

We took recordings of all programmes so they could be paused to make sure nothing had been missed. We noted:

  • Whether the drink was actually consumed, was visible without being consumed or simply mentioned
  • How much screen time was devoted to the scene featuring the drink
  • Broad characteristics of the person mentioning, consuming or likely to consume it

We also noted when a meal or exercise scene was shown in the programme without drinks of any sort being shown or mentioned.


We discovered:

  • Soft or fizzy drinks dominated children’s programmes. No water was drunk in the sample programmes.
  • Around 10% of screen time of soap operas and drama programmes showed or mentioned drinks.
  • Water was featured much less often than other drinks, in particular in soap operas and sitcoms.
  • In soap operas hot drinks and alcohol were featured the most.
  • Drama programmes showed a more even split between alcohol and soft drinks.
  • Medical drama programmes gave the most prominence to water.

Our client used the research to highlight the poor examples set in children’s programmes. They also started a campaign for water to feature more prominently on UK television.

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