Featured Column
Week of 6.13.2005
"Today's stabbings brought to you by..."
          I can remember watching the star of the Mary Tyler Moore show lift a can of soda to her lips and noticing that the name of the soda was covered with a piece of tape. On Murphy Brown, Candace Bergen had a can of beer on her desk discreetly turned so the brand name was hidden from the audience. If anyone made a pot of coffee on Family Ties you were assured of not seeing the brand of coffee used, the name would be covered by a piece of tape or turned so it was hidden.
          Then, one night, I watched Seinfeld and Jerry is standing in the middle of his living room blatantly holding a Diet Coke can with the brand name clearly visible. Gatorade bottles and cups are all over the screen during any televised baseball or football game. NASCAR drivers wear an impossible number of logos on their coveralls, not to mention the sponsors’ names decorating every inch of their race cars. Watch a baseball game on TV and you’ll see those electronic advertising signs that appear behind the batter and change every few moments. You’ll see those same electronic signs featured during televised NBA games – sprinkled on the televised side of the court. Same with the major tennis tournaments that have advertising signs plastered on every possible surface.
          There was a time in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s when an advertiser could place a message on the news broadcasts of CBS, NBC and ABC and reach over 60% of the American buying public. Then cable came along and fractured the TV market. The big three networks now have to share their viewership with hundreds of other channels. The days of an advertising agency media buyer placing a million dollar advertisement on the top three networks and reaching a majority of the populace are long gone.
          Advertisers, public relations companies and advertising agencies are now actively engaged in the latest advertising device to get their messages across to the public. It’s called “Product Placement.”
          You don’t think that Jerry Seinfeld was just randomly drinking from a Diet Coke can, do you? The Coca Cola company paid for that brief show of the Diet Coke can. When you see a Ford automobile racing down the streets of San Francisco or New York City you can bet that Ford bought that time on screen and supplied the car.
          The bidding wars are fierce when your favorite talk show host lays plans to give away music CD’s, Pontiacs and make up kits to their audience members. These items are given to the host by the advertisers and they are then charged a mighty sum for the right to appear on their television show.
           “Product Placement” is the latest rage among aggressive advertisers. Thousands of companies are creating more and more effective ways to show their products on television without risking their commercials being zapped or TIVO’d. It’s safer to have the star of a popular TV show shown drinking out of a Diet Coke can than run a 30-second commercial that can be zapped out of existence.
           This new method of “Product Placement” selling has just begun. There’s one place on television that hasn’t yet succumbed to the new selling, but I’m sure it’s coming soon to your favorite news channel.
          I can see the CBS nightly newscaster saying, “Good evening and welcome to the CBS Evening News. Tonight’s world news is brought to you by Boeing Aircraft, maker of the 787 jetliner, now shown on your screen. Our news report on stabbings across the nation will be brought to you by Johnson and Johnson Band Aids, Our disease report for today is sponsored by SmithKline Beecham, makers of fine drugs and medicines. A special report on the dangers of too much sun exposure is sponsored by Schering-Plough, makers of Coppertone sunblock lotion. Our sports stories are brought to you by the good people at Lamisil, anti-fungal treatment. Stay tuned for all the news from Iraq, reported by Janice Lanking, who will be wearing a smart ensemble by Donna Karan, shoes by Manolo Blahnik, Janice’s hair was styled by Jerome of Baghdad and her charming make up is by Clinique. I’m wearing an Armani suit and Florsheim loafers. Now to the news…”
          Can’t you see Wolf Blitzer seated at his anchor desk with a Diet Coke in his right hand, a steaming cup of Starbuck’s coffee near his left, a pile of donuts in a Krispy Kreme box in front of him. Off to the right, but on camera are a large bottle of Excedrin and a box of Ex-Lax. 
          Wolf starts the newscast by saying, “The news in a moment, but first, just before air time I brushed my teeth with Crest and a GUM toothbrush.”
The news is now 'Showtime'.
      Ron was born in the Bronx, New York. He was raised in Southern California and lived in Honolulu, Hawaii for three decades. He attended Inglewood High School and U.C.L.A.. His youthful goal was to become a major league baseball player. In Hawaii Ron played on a series of championship softball teams. He is an active tennis player.
      Ron’s career began at the Inglewood Daily News where as a youngster was enrolled in a publisher training program. He served as an advertising salesman, circulation manager, writer and layout and design staffer. He has been a newspaper publisher at the Oregon City Oregon Enterprise Courier, the Beloit Wisconsin Daily News, the Elizabeth, New Jersey Daily Journal and This Week Magazines (Hawaii).
      Ron lives with his wife, Marilyn, in San Diego, California. His two children, Douglas and Diane also live in the San Diego area. Ron’s interests range far and wide and are reflected in his columns diverse topics.
Ron Cruger