While the tense wait continues outside the Beaconsfield Mine, the media is down to covering the minutiae.

Channel Seven news last night (see second story)
disclosed new levels of detail when it reported that medical experts
have “revealed what’s now keeping them alive”. Cross to Dr Andrew
Hughes who says that “Sustagen, really is the primary product at the
moment”. The station then flashed an image of a Sustagen carton
on-screen with nutritional details, before noting that biscuits had
initially been sent down the mine, but “authorities aren’t revealing
the brand”.

Seven wasn’t the only media outlet with conspicuous product placement. The Herald Sun reported that the miners were “receiving vanilla-flavoured Sustagen dietary supplement drink”, while The Age
said that “nourishment was limited to vitamin pills and, every eight
hours, the highlight: a small carton of Sustagen Gold, French vanilla
flavour”.

You couldn’t buy that kind of publicity.

So
was it bought? “Absolutely not”, says Rebecca Bartel of Ceutica who
handles media relations for Sustagen – and anyway, Sustagen Gold hasn’t
been a brand since the 1980s. Novartis Consumer Health (which owns
Sustagen) only provided the drink to the miners “on the request of a
dietician who was concerned about initial media reports that jelly
beans were being delivered to the miners”.

And there are no
plans to capitalise on the wave of publicity, says Bartel, although the
phone has been running hot with calls from medical professionals,
dieticians and of course the media, asking “what’s in Sustagen that
helps keep malnourished people going”.

Meanwhile, in breaking product placement news –
as we go to press, it’s revealed that the miners have been passed
another essential item: iPods.

Peter Fray

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