Las Vegas Sun

April 17, 2014

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Eye-opener with a pitch

TV news program tries product placement as revenue source

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COURTESY OF FOX 5

Stand-ins for McDonald’s iced coffee appear with Jason Feinberg and Monica Jackson on the Fox 5 set.

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Oooooooh, they’re calling out your name.

Two cups of McDonald’s iced coffee (BUY!) sit on the Fox 5 TV news desk, a punch-you-in-the-face product placement (BUY!) to chase down your morning news.

They’ve been on the Las Vegas station set for about two weeks, following the lead of a few TV stations across the country, and they’re still looking every bit as frosty and tantalizing (BUY!) as they were the first day you laid your eyes on them.

But wait, here’s the best part: They’re not real. Fake coffee on the real news, two plastic cups permanently filled with some kind of bogus drink. The anchors aren’t even supposed to acknowledge them, McDonald’s reps explain. That’s part of their genius, my little lambs! They get into your mind without you knowing it. So they just sit there, two logo-emblazoned plastic cups, percolating into the psyche. Made-to-scale models that weigh something like seven pounds each — refreshing, and bottom-line boosting!

Fox is starting its day with a “nontraditional revenue source,” KVVU news director Adam P. Bradshaw says.

The station and McDonald’s won’t disclose how much the fast food empire paid for the product placement. But lest there be any concerns about mixing fact (the morning news) with fiction (fake coffee), he points out that the cups are put out only after 7 a.m., when the hard news gives way to light lifestyle news.

“I stress the fact that it is being done on a program that is a combination of news entertainment and lifestyle programming,” Bradshaw says.

And if there’s ever an E. coli outbreak beneath a certain set of golden arches, he says, KVVU will report the daylights out of it, gosh darn it.

Kelly McBride, the ethics group leader for Poynter Institute, the nonprofit journalism training organization, isn’t convinced. Product placement in a newsroom, she worries, represents the “slippage” of news into advertisement, a descent into a dark world where conglomerate companies control coverage.

If so, the slippage is also occurring at stations in Chicago, Seattle and New York.

And when Las Vegas is done suffering this dry-your-eyeballs-out-of-their-sockets summer heat, Bradshaw says KVVU might switch to ceramic mugs with massive McLogos filled with fake black gold McDonald’s coffee. (BUY!)

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