Thursday, February 05, 2004

This Posting is sponsored by store bought almonds and tap water

During his opening monologue Tuesday night Jimmy Kimmel showed a picture of Rosie O'Donnell heading into the Martha Stewart trial with two family-sized bags of M&M's- one plain and one peanut- and said, "You can't pay for that kind of product placement."

Or maybe you can. In the photos O'Donnell has the M&M logos faced prominently towards the camera. And what reason was there for O'Donnell to even be at the courthouse besides her offering "moral support" to Stewart?

We've come a long way from the days where Rod Serling blatantly shilled for Winston cigarettes druing "Twilight Zone" episodes (a practice occasionally mocked by Conan O'Brian.) Such obvious commercial endorsement is shunned these days. However, with the consolidation of media companies in recent years the art of "cross-promotion" is fast rising. Witness Disney's promoting its movie "Miracle" on ESPN's "Sportscenter" all week. The once indelible line between news and commerce has become increasingly blurred as media corporations work to recoup their expenses.

Then there's advertising disguised as subtle conversation. Last year on "The Tonight Show" Drew Barrymore and Jay Leno did a question-and-answer session about Barrymore's favorite meal, which she said was grilled cheese sandwiches. What stood out about it was Barrymore's unabashed hawking of Kraft American cheese singles, which she used to "rock the grilled cheese." The following day Howard Stern, that king of the subtle advertisement, dissected the entire interview and theorized that Barrymore was being paid to hawk Kraft cheese singles. Naturally, nothing can be proven as no one was talking.

It's possible O'Donnell's M&M's-on-the-courthouse-steps photo op was a paid advertisement; she might be looking for ways to recoup the nearly thirty million dollars she lost staging the Broadway flop "Taboo." More likely O'Donnell was there to rehabilitate her recent "bitchy dyke" image. After all, if liars get cancer, M&M's make people fat.

Man, that would look good on an ad.

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