Product Placement on TV News

My first recollection of product placement was watching The Goonies. There was a scene where there was a fridge full of Pepsi and a stilted discussion about Pepsi. Even as a youngster, it struck me as forced and ridiculous.

Product placement became more and more popular, tied into ads showing James Bond or celebrities. Local Team Stadium got renamed after Enron or Big Global Bank. Eventually, some popular celebrities got shows which were largely vehicles of self-promotion. To say nothing of Internet marketers.

So why doesn’t every TV show do this? Why shouldn’t a daily local TV news program show people drinking Starbucks and a brief discussion of its rich aroma, weather brought to you by Yikes Insurance, news advertorials about hormone replacement when not much happens that day? We all know the summit of human achievement is depicted by the wonders of targeted advertising. The rise of country music was heavily related to efforts to market flour, seeds, Sears and insurance. So it’s not that new.

Since media is going through a difficult time, why don’t you see more selling out? Has it already happened with your local news? Are journalists concerned that gravitas is more important than dressing up as a bumblebee or giant flower?

Local news often has logo jackets with the manufacturer’s name prominently featured. Here’s a local example - Notice the Columbia logo.

I suspect they provide the jackets in exchange for some compensation including exposure. Land’s End is the official outfitter for the Weather Channel, so the model is already in place for more extensive sponsorship.

You also see notices at the end of each broadcast about clothing and hair and makeup suppliers to the anchors.

As Telemark notes, it already happens.

WLS is the local ABC station in Chicago, and is owned and operated by ABC, which is in turn owned by Disney. During their local newscasts, they regularly do puff pieces on entertainment programming on ABC (they regularly feature “The Bachelor”), Disney movies, happenings at Disney World, etc.

This Friday my local ABC affiliate (KOMO Seattle) did a five minute story on “Grey’s Anatomy” and its links to Seattle. Now the show is set in Seattle, but five minutes on a show that’s overwhelmingly filmed in LA is pretty ridiculous.

I remember when the old “Degrassi Jr. High”, which I know is a Canadian TV series, had posters for Dipps granola bars everywhere, if the kids weren’t eating them or the parents didn’t have them in their kitchens.

Ever watched some of those old TV shows? They’d have someone standing behind a podium with a sign on it that said “LUCKY STRIKE CIGARETTES”, that kind of thing.

In short, it’s nothing new.

Let’s modify the discussion so it doesn’t include a network promoting itself, like a news logo. Canadian networks may be more restrained than US ones; their news shows often have minimalist looking sets.

My local NBC affiliate typically has a dealership’s logo displayed during the traffic segment; sometimes the anchor even refers to the segment as the “[insert name here] traffic report.”

And I would guess that at least a third of the morning news (possibly more - I only see it for an hour) is dedicated to bits about NBC programs, seasonal/special edition junk foods, or some new offering from a fast food place.

Local stations in the St. Louis area have teams out and about during bad weather and they are introduced as our reporters in the “Storm Chaser Bommarito Chevrolet Silverado”

Our local station is WJLA (Washington, DC) and they used to have coffee cups on the news desk with business logos. I seem to recall Dunkin’ Donuts, Starbucks, and McD’s. I’m not sure if they still do that - seems the last few times I caught the morning news, the anchors were standing.

It goes all the way back to Wrigley Field. I know the stadium was named for William Wrigley, Jr., the Chicago Cubs’ owner, but the association with the chewing gum company is undeniable.

This is how companies sneak in cigarette ads.