McDonald’s Serves Up Paid Product Placement on Local TV News

I have to admit that I was shocked – shocked, I say – when I read this story in the Las Vegas Sun today. McDonald’s has signed a paid product placement deal with several local TV news stations whereby viewers will see its iced coffee drinks in branded cups during their morning news programs.


I know that more news media companies are being treated more like revenue streams than information resources every day. I know that. And I fully expect newsrooms across all mediums to evolve. But I didn’t expect paid product placements to be served up alongside the story of the hit-and-run on the corner of Cherry Street and 1st Street last night.

As more consumers take control over their ability to view – or skip – commercials using digital recorders, marketers are looking for ways to get their brands noticed in other ways. In that search, the lines between advertising and editorial are becoming more blurred.

I’ve seen it done in ways that were clever, but my first reaction to these fake iced coffees sitting conspicuously on the anchors’ desks is that it’s weird. And I’m surprised that the journalism industry, which sometimes accuses PR pros of trying to turn news stories into commercials, would agree to turn their own cherished news desks into billboards for hire.

What is your reaction? Is this smart product placement? Should TV news go the way of American Idol and place branded cups in front of all their anchors? Or does that weird you out, too?

A nod to my friend Stephanie Skordas for tipping me off to the story.

*Image from the Las Vegas Sun’s online version of the article.

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One response to “McDonald’s Serves Up Paid Product Placement on Local TV News

  1. So many broadcasting companies are on a loss of money and sometimes, this is what they do to try to make up for that.

    One of the other things they are doing is upholding a hiring freeze, layoffs, etc.

    This was probably some scheme thought up by one of their national sales people and then the general manager and news director agreed to. Maybe it was better to them than laying off employees. Anyways, I think a lot of companies might be on the verge of trying anything that might make them a few extra bucks. Television is notorious for that habit. Other journalistic mediums are not. This is not the golden age of television anymore. This might be a longer downfall than print media but it might be the uphill battle for it.

    That’s just the business side. For the journalistic side, you’re technically not supposed to make stories out of “advertising.” Putting a McDonalds coffee on the news desk while reporting a story is the same thing as putting a super over the story. You’re left thinking, what does that have to do with wildfires in California? Absolutely nothing, but it was just some money making scheme; an abomination created by their sales department.

    What they need is a wakeup call that says, “Hey, we are journalists.” We are not supposed to be entertainment (well not American Idol type entertainment).

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