Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Brian Williams Uses Product Placements In NBC Nightly News Stories

Unfortunately, product placements have become an all-too-familiar part of the television landscape.  When a particular food, beverage or consumer product suddenly gets a close-up in a comedy, drama, reality show or singing competition, it's a sure bet that some mega-corporation paid a hefty sum to have it placed there.  We can roll our eyes (or avert them), hit the fast-forward button, change the channel or turn the TV off, but that's not going to change anything.  Money talks and it talks loudly.  It's a sad reality that most people have come to accept product placements as just another part of their regular TV viewing.

But what about product placements in news broadcasts?  When we watch the news--unlike entertainment--there is certainly an expectation of ethics and integrity.  News stories should be selected because of their importance and relevance, not because they can be used to promote a product or thank a sponsor.  Unfortunately, that's not the case on NBC Nightly News.  Brian Williams--as well as the producers, correspondents and other anchors on NBC's flagship newscast--regularly use their show as a way to promote their sponsors' products.  To put it bluntly, this is sleazy and dishonest.  Obviously, product placements on a newscast raise a number of important ethical questions.  Are the placements a way for Brian and his producers to say "thank you" to a regular Nightly News or NBC sponsor?  Are they a marketing tool to try to entice companies to advertise in the future?  Or are they paid for as part of ad packages?  Are companies allowed to "buy" a news story on Nightly News?  (I'm not referring to paid sponsorships, which are introduced by an announcer and accompanied by a full-screen product logo.  That's a whole separate category and only slightly less unethical than unannounced in-story sponsorships.)  When Brian Williams takes 30 seconds to tell us that Frito-Lay products will now be "all-natural" (as he did on 12/28/10), or that Fig Newtons will now be known simply as Newtons (as he did on 5/1/12), are those legitimate news stories?  I can't imagine how inane fluff like that could possibly qualify as news.  It seems much more likely that they are sponsored product placements paid for by Frito-Lay and Nabisco.  I believe that the brazen NBC News ad sales reps actually offer 30-second contrived news stories (or product placements within a longer news story) to companies that are willing to pay to have their products promoted by Brian Williams and other NBC News personalities.  It's hard to doubt that with all these examples of product placements and mentions on NBC Nightly News dating back to 2007 (this list is updated from its last appearance on this blog which was in April, 2012):

* 7/18/07--Nightly News airs a story about Restless Leg Syndrome.  The sole purpose of the story is to establish the legitimacy of RLS because many doctors do not acknowledge it as a legitimate medical condition.  One of the main drugs used to treat RLS is Requip, a frequent Nightly News advertiser at the time (Requip was specifically mentioned in the story).  And in addition to their regular advertisements, Requip (manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline) sponsored nine Nightly News "Making A Difference" segments from April 2007 to January 2008 (the dates were 4/20/07, 5/25/07, 6/22/07, 7/6/07, 7/27/07, 8/3/07, 9/14/07, 1/11/08 and 1/18/08).  There is absolutely no doubt that the story on Restless Leg Syndrome was done as a special favor to Nightly News's pals at Glaxo as a way of saying thank you for all that Glaxo ad money.
* 11/13/07--Brian Williams anchors Nightly News from a Chrysler plant in Detroit.  This broadcast is a thinly-disguised 30-minute commercial for Chrysler, a frequent Nightly News and NBC advertiser.  At the end of the broadcast, Brian interviewed Chrysler executive Jim Press.  Brian's "interview" was made up of softball questions that allowed Press to talk about how great Chrysler's cars and trucks are (Brian even gets in on the act of praising Chrysler products: "This is going to make some buyer somewhere very happy.").  Less than three months later (2/5/08), Chrysler sponsored the entire Nightly News broadcast.  An obvious example of quid pro quo.
* 1/31/09--A story about 3-D ads during the Super Bowl prominently features Lifewater beverages--a product that advertised on the following day's Super Bowl.  On NBC.
* 2/23/09--Nightly News features a report about how thoroughly United Airlines cleans its planes.  United is a frequent Nightly News advertiser.  This story is just a big thank-you from NBC to United.
* 5/5/09--Nightly News airs a "news story" about McDonald's new gourmet coffees.  McDonald's is a major advertiser on Nightly News and other NBC/Universal shows.  Ann Curry introduced the story by calling McDonald's coffee a "delicious brew".  More than a third of this story is comprised of excerpts from McDonald's commercials and interviews with McDonald's spokespersons.  This story is simply a commercial for McDonald's new gourmet coffees.  (So as not to offend another sponsor, Nightly News also gives Starbucks lots of good publicity in the story.)
* 5/12/09--A story purportedly about FDA assertions regarding Cheerios' health claims ends up becoming a fawning two-minute promotional message for Cheerios.  The report intentionally minimized the FDA aspect of the story and instead spent most of its time promoting the positive attributes of Cheerios.  This was correspondent Robert Bazell's first line: "It is one of America's iconic products--Cheerios."  Well, that certainly set the scene.  We were then shown 20 seconds of Cheerios commercials while Bazell tells us that, "Soluble oat fiber--a key component--can help reduce cholesterol."  In other words, Bazell just made the very claim that the FDA had expressly forbidden General Mills from making.  He then briefly interrupts his Cheerios love-fest to mention the FDA reprimand: "A letter from the FDA to General Mills, the manufacturer, says that the health claims have gone too far.  The big problem is those claims about how much cholesterol can be reduced in how many weeks.  They are repeated on the box.  The FDA says those are drug-like claims that can only be made after studies have been submitted to the agency and approved."  So rather than acknowledging that General Mills made inappropriate claims, he chooses to defend the claims as if they were mere technicalities.  As Bazell says this, he was sitting at a table with a bowl of Cheerios in front of him, and at least six boxes of Cheerios neatly stacked next to him.  He looks like he is in a Cheerios commercial.  Actually, he is.  Bazell continues, "In a statement, General Mills said, 'The science is not in question and we look forward to discussing this with the FDA and reaching a resolution.'"  The science is not in question!  Bazell does not take issue with the General Mills statement--he simply accepts it as fact.  The General Mills statement also appears on screen alongside a pleasing graphic of a breakfast table with a bowl of Cheerios, a box of Cheerios and a glass of orange juice.  We then see a close-up of milk being poured into a bowl of Cheerios.  There is a brief interview with a doctor who says that three grams of soluble fiber is not really going to help you, but that it's better than eating something that's high in fat.  Bazell then twists this statement into, "Food industry experts say there is no question that Cheerios is a healthy product but the FDA seems to be paying more attention to the claims that companies make."  No question!  Bazell's commercial--I mean news story--ends with boxes of Cheerios going by on a conveyor belt, a slow pan down a box of Cheerios, and a mother pouring some Cheerios for her toddler.  Can anyone dispute that this is a product placement?
* 7/13/09--The entire Nightly News broadcast is sponsored by the University of Phoenix, an online university.  Four days later, Nightly News airs a report about Western Governors University (also an online university).  This story features a gratuitous plug for the University of Phoenix as well as a prominent graphic displaying their logo.  It seems apparent that University of Phoenix's July 13 sponsorship also bought them a plug on the July 17 broadcast.
* 9/6/09--A story about search engines becomes a story mainly about Bing.  Bing is a Microsoft product, and Microsoft was a former partner of NBC in MSNBC and current partner in  This story is just a plug for one of NBC's corporate partners.
* 10/22/09--During a piece about women in the workplace, Nightly News spends 75 seconds profiling Jan Fields, the Chief Operating Officer of McDonald's USA.  The story gives her ample time to talk about things like McDonald's "world famous fries".  Ms. Fields is now the president of McDonald's USA--no doubt thanks in part to her ability to manipulate NBC News into allowing her to plug her greasy burgers and fries.
* 2/4/10--Brian Williams reads a 30-second story about the great new Heinz ketchup packages (he also manages to mention McDonald's in the story).  This is just a plug for Heinz.
* 3/17/10--Brian Williams reads a 30-second story about how Kraft Foods will be reducing the sodium in their products.  Another plug for a regular NBC advertiser.
* 3/19/10--Ann Curry (filling in for Brian Williams) reads a story about how Wal-Mart will be slashing their grocery prices.
* 5/14/10--In part one of a two-part interview with Sally Field, Brian Williams spends the entire 90 seconds talking with Field about her Boniva commercials (at the time, Boniva advertised on Nightly News every night).  Three days later, in part two of the interview, Brian again mentions Boniva.
* 6/8/10--Nightly News airs a report about an obscure Danish medical study that concluded that Aleve can reduce the risk of heart attacks.  Aleve is made by Bayer--a company that runs several ads each night on Nightly News.  Not to mention the advertising they do on other NBC shows and other NBC/Universal networks.
* 6/10/10--Brian Williams introduces a ridiculous "news story" about whether or not Chevys should be referred to as Chevrolets.  Clearly, this is a two-minute-and-ten-second thank-you to the Chevy people for all the advertising dollars they have given NBC over the years.
* 6/14/10--Lester Holt reads a "news story" about how Starbucks and McDonald's are now providing free Wi-Fi in their stores.  Interestingly, this is the second time Nightly News has paired these two companies in a fake news story whose sole purpose is to promote them as sponsors.
* 6/22/10--Nightly News shows a 30-second clip of Jimmy Fallon playing Microsoft's new Kinnect video game.  Again, since Microsoft is a partner of NBC, this is just another plug for one of NBC's corporate partners (and a plug for Fallon's show, as well).
* 7/2/10--A Nightly News profile of LeBron James includes clips from his McDonald's commercials.
* 7/21/10--Brian Williams contrives a "news story" about knee surgery in order to call attention to a new Nightly News advertiser--Smith & Nephew Replacement Knees.
* 9/24/10--In one of the most egregious examples of product placement, a story on the diminishing use of credit and debit cards for food shopping begins with a couple in a Target store standing in front of a massive wall of Cheerios that was almost certainly assembled by the Nightly News producers just for this story.  We also see the couple walking through the aisles with the Cheerios box and later the camera gets a clear shot as the box is scanned at the register.  The first 45 seconds of this story is a non-stop product placement for Cheerios.  (The last shot of the story is the mother feeding Cheerios to her infant.)  At the time, Cheerios was a frequent Nightly News sponsor and advertiser.  This story was a great big "thank you" to General Mills--unless, of course, General Mills paid NBC for the exposure.
* 10/27/10--Brian Williams reports an important story about how the Scott Paper Company is manufacturing tubeless toilet paper.  The story features plenty of ad clips from Scott products.
* 10/31/10--A story on the end of the Pontiac brand is really just some free advertising for General Motors.
* 11/4/10 and 11/5/10--Nightly News airs two virtually identical stories about a great new Spiral CT Scanner.  It just happens to be made by GE, NBC's then-parent company.
* 11/9/10--The broadcast airs stories about the end of General Motors' Mr. Goodwrench ad campaign and the new ad campaign beginning for Planter's Mr. Peanut brand.  Both stories contain lots of ad clips.
* 12/6/10--A story about the health benefits of aspirin is nothing more than a product placement for Bayer, a frequent Nightly News advertiser.  This "news report" begins with a five second clip from a Bayer commercial.  Then there are three close-ups of Bayer aspirin: A box on a shelf in a Walgreens, a pill in someone's palm and a bottle of Bayer.  No other name-brand aspirin is shown in the story, just generic or store brands.  Even an animated graphic of a bottle simply labeled "aspirin" is brown and yellow--easily recognizable as Bayer's traditional colors on their aspirin bottles and the main colors on their website.  Not very subtle.
* 12/7/10--A story about how San Francisco is banning toys that come with children's fast food meals begins with a cute segment about a woman who collects Happy Meal toys.  The rest of this 2:30 "news story" (which was really just a commercial for McDonald's) contains clips of actual McDonald's commercials and non-stop footage of the McDonald's logo, restaurants and food.
* 12/28/10--Brian Williams spends 30 seconds telling us the great news that Frito-Lay products will soon be "all-natural".  With the Frito-Lay logo behind him, he specifically mentions Tostitos, Sun Chips, Lays and Rold Gold pretzels.
* 1/5/11--Brian Williams spends 30 seconds telling us that Starbucks will be changing their logo.
* 1/17/11--Brian Williams announces that Starbucks will be introducing a new drink size called Trenta.  I guess Brian reports on Starbucks so often because doing so gets him free drinks.
* 1/20/11--Brian Williams tells us that Wal-Mart will be cutting prices on fresh fruits and vegetables and reducing fats, sugar, salt and trans fats in its store brands over the next few years.  This sounds like a press release written by the Wal-Mart marketing department.  Maybe it was.
* 2/7/11--Nightly News does a three-minute rah-rah story about Chrysler's "Imported From Detroit" Super Bowl commercial (featuring Eminem) that aired the previous day (the story features 80 seconds of clips from the ad).  This was little more than a three-minute commercial for Chrysler.
* 3/8/11--Brian Williams takes 30 seconds to tell us the important news that Subway now has more U.S. outlets than McDonald's.  So as not to offend McDonald's, he quickly adds that McDonald's earns more money than Subway.
* 4/5/11--Nightly News does a two-and-a-half minute "news story" about the Vermont Country Store.  This is a promotional story for a company that--despite its name--does $100 million in annual business.
* 4/6/11--Nightly News airs a 2:05 story about Pringles.  This may be the most shameless product placement Nightly News has ever done.  Then again--probably not.  The story begins with Brian Williams plugging some Procter & Gamble brands--Tide, Crest and Pampers.  We are then shown clips from Pringles commercials--including one that featured Brad Pitt.  We get to see a Pringles-related clip from "Ally McBeal".  But mostly, we get to see correspondent Kevin Tibbles having a great time with Pringles.  Just like Brad Pitt!  There's Tibbles sitting with two cans of Pringles.  There's Tibbles with a math professor who explains that the exact shape of the chip is a hyperbolic paraboloid.  There's Tibbles holding a Pringles chip up to the camera.  Then we see some clips of other P & G products--Tide, Gillette, Oral B and Wella.  The story ends with 15 seconds of various closeup shots of Pringles.  And the very next night--surprise--a Pringles commercial airs on Nightly News.  I guess the Pringles people bought a combo news-story-and-ad package.
* 5/9/11--Brian reads a 30-second "news story" about McDonald's great new redesign plans for their restaurants: "Mickey D's is spending over $1 billion to make their restaurants more chill, more comfortable, more laid back--more Starbucks than Mayor McCheese.  Look for wooden tables, muted colors and faux leather seats coming soon to a Mac's near you.  And you can get fries with that."  That's not a news story, it's a McDonald's press release. And it's shameless.  Notice how Brian slipped in a Starbucks mention, as well.  What is it with Nightly News anchors pairing McDonald's and Starbucks in product placement stories?
* 5/18/11--Brian personally defends McDonald's against criticism from parenting organizations and nutritional advocacy groups that accused McDonald's of unfairly using Ronald McDonald to attract children to their high-sodium, high-cholesterol, high-fat food.  In the story, Brian says that this criticism "seems a little harsh".  So much for anchor neutrality.
* 7/26/11--Brian read this 30-second press release from McDonald's: "McDonald's said today that it's taking steps to make Happy Meals healthier.  The company is cutting the size of the french fry portion in half for starters and adding apple slices to every meal.  The new meals will have about 20% fewer calories--coming in at under 600 calories total.  First Lady Michelle Obama, who campaigns, of course, for better nutrition, put out a statement today calling this a good step."  It was clear that Brian and his producers meant to imply that Mrs. Obama was endorsing McDonald's--which, of course, she was not.  (As Brian read this, the McDonald's logo is onscreen for the entire thirty seconds, along with the words "Healthy Choices" and a picture of a Happy Meal.)
* 9/20/11--Brian Williams takes 30 seconds to tell us all about Heinz's exciting new ketchup packages: "There's a new fast food staple coming our way after years of fighting with the old ones.  Heinz is out with a new vessel for fast food ketchup.  It's shaped differently, it opens differently, contains three times the amount of product in the old packets.  They're already being used at some Dairy Queens, Wendy's gets them later in the year--no comment yet from the really big players--McDonald's and Burger King."  The accompanying video shows plenty of promotional footage of people using the new Heinz packets.  (I'm surprised that Brian didn't conduct a live in-studio demonstration.)  Why does that sound familiar?  Oh yeah--it's because Brian already told us about the new Heinz packages on the 2/4/10 Nightly News.  I guess Heinz must have paid NBC News for two product placements.
* 10/27/11--The lead story is about the health benefits of aspirin as a cancer-fighting drug.  This story is virtually identical to the 12/6/10 story on aspirin.  In truth, this is just another 2:40 product placement for Bayer.  Like the 12/6/10 story, this story features only one national brand of aspirin--Bayer.  All the other aspirin brands are generic or store brands like CVS or Sunmark.  The story also shows two vintage Bayer newspaper ads and just for good measure, it features an 8-second clip from a current Bayer TV commercial.  This story is a joke.  It is nothing more than a shameless way to plug Bayer aspirin.  And the fact that they showed it as the lead story is even more shameless. The message is obvious--buy Bayer aspirin and you won't get cancer.
* 11/17/11--Right in the middle of a story about Congress's decision to categorize pizza as a vegetable, correspondent Anne Thompson takes a ten-second break to read a McDonald's commercial.  With a huge McDonald's logo next to her, Thompson tells us that, "McDonald's got the message--reducing french fries and adding fruit to its happy meals."  This has absolutely nothing to do with the story about pizza being a vegetable--it is just another opportunity for a Nightly News correspondent to shill for the Golden Arches.
* 1/29/12--A story about fast food restaurants that stay open late is really just another product placement for McDonald's.  This story contains more than a minute's worth of gratuitous McDonald's footage--interiors, exteriors, franchise owners, customers, workers, food--and even includes an extended shot of correspondent Mike Taibbi standing in front of a McDonald's in a way that clearly displayed the McDonald's name and logo.  And just to make sure we didn't miss the point, Taibbi then tells us that, "McDonald's now has 40% of its restaurants open 24 hours--up from 30% seven years ago."  That statement--and the entire report--sounds suspiciously like a commercial.  Obviously, the Nightly News producers' goal in running this story is to inform the viewers that McDonald's has new extended hours so we should rush out later and get some of those delicious Big Macs, Quarter Pounders and fries.
* 2/6/12--Brian spends more than two minutes fawning over the Clint Eastwood "Halftime In America" Chrysler ad that aired during the Super Bowl.  He calls it "a big, sweeping and impactful ad."  He shows us 45 seconds of the ad, including a 30-second continuous clip.  But don't let Clint Eastwood's appearance in the ad fool you.  Brian Williams is Chrysler's chief spokesperson.
* 3/4/12--Lester Holt took 30 seconds to tell us that Nabisco's Oreo cookies are celebrating their 100th birthday: "And this week a big birthday for a classic American snack. The Oreo--known as milk's favorite cookie--turns 100.  The National Biscuit Company rolled out the first Oreo from a New York City bakery in 1912.  Today, the crème-filled chocolate sandwiches are sold in 100 countries earning $1.5 billion a year.  By the way, Kraft, which owns the brand, says half of Oreo lovers pull the cookies apart before eating them.  So now you know."  We certainly do know--that Lester Holt is a shill.  (Obviously, as Lester was reading this, we were shown clips of Oreo commercials and multiple other shots of the cookies.)
* 5/1/12--Brian tells us that Fig Newtons (another Nabisco product) will now simply be called Newtons.  As Brian read this important story, the screen above his left shoulder displayed a package of the cookies.
* 5/22/13--At the end of a story about an app that displays eating habits, Brian said, "Graphic evidence of your potato chips, your Mallomars, your Haagen-Dazs."  Mallomars.  A Nabisco product.  So that's three stories/mentions of Nabisco cookies in less than three months.  Nabisco must have bought the deluxe product placement package.
* 6/11/12--During a story about thefts of household products (like detergent) from supermarkets, correspondent Miguel Almaguer holds up a bottle of Tide for a total of 16 seconds.  Maybe he was auditioning to be a spokesmodel.
* 6/23/12--A story about Detroit's recovery features extensive footage from inside the Quicken Loans headquarters, as well as interviews with employees and the company's CEO.  Six days later (6/29/13), a Quicken Loans commercial popped up on Nightly News.  Can you say "quid pro quo"?
* 8/20/12--During a report about Rosie O'Donnell's heart attack, Brian volunteers the information that, "She finally took a Bayer aspirin--the way she learned in the TV commercial."  Using Rosie O'Donnell's heart attack to promote Bayer is beyond unethical.  But Brian Williams jumps at any chance to promote a good Nightly News sponsor (Bayer usually advertises three of four times a night on Nightly News).
* 10/17/12--In a Nightly News story about vitamins, Brian Williams specifically mentioned Centrum Silver.  Centrum is manufactured by Pfizer--a regular advertiser and sponsor on Nightly News.
* 11/25/12--Nightly News spends 2:30 on a story titled "Inside Amazon".  Obviously, this flattering story is nothing more than a long-form commercial for Amazon.
* 11/26/12--A story about holiday sales includes a 45-second look inside the Amazon sales & distribution center in Phoenix.  Two Amazon stories in two days.
* 12/1/12--A story about hiring seasonal holiday help includes profiles of eBay, UPS and--no surprise--Amazon.  Three Amazon plugs in a week.  I hope Jeff Bezos got his money's worth from Brian Williams.
* 12/4/12--After a story about the makeover of the iconic Hollywood sign, Brian Williams makes sure we know that it was "Thanks to a new coat of white pain--400 gallons worth--donated by Sherwin-Williams."
* 12/6/12--Brian Williams spends 30 seconds shamelessly promoting Procter & Gamble's new Tide for Men: "Get ready for Tide for Men--it works the same as the regular Tide but it's being marketed towards male buyers.  Here's how they do that--they put a football player on the label hoping men will but it.  Even though a lot of us buy Tide on our own without assistance, they figure Saints quarterback Drew Brees will help sell the new Tide plus Febreze Sport with Victory-Fresh Scent.  Even though the scent of a post-victory NFL jersey would knock a buzzard off a telephone pole at 500 yards."  In case you're wondering--that wasn't a commercial, it was a news story.  I especially like the part where Brian tells us that "a lot of us buy Tide on our own".  That takes it from a regular endorsement into the realm of a personal endorsement.  Well done, Brian.  And saying the entire name--"new Tide plus Febreze Sport with Victory-fresh Scent" is the hallmark of a seasoned pitchman.  Ed McMahon couldn't have done it any better.  I'm surprised Brian didn't refer to Drew Brees as "Drew FeBrees".
* 12/13/12--At the end of a story about the 12/12/12 concert for Hurricane Sandy relief, Brian plugs the Robin Hood Foundation--an organization on whose board he sits.  A little self-promotion never hurt anyone.
* 12/18/12--Again Brian plugs the Robin Hood Foundation because he sits on their board.
* 12/19/12--Brian informs us that GM will open a new Camaro plant in Michigan.  Brian always makes sure to plug American car makers.  Because he's just a red-white-and-blue kinda guy.
* 12/30/12--Nightly News ends with a 2:52 story on the new "Les Miserables" movie.  The movie is produced by Universal--an NBC/Universal company.  But of course neither the story's reporter nor anchor Kate Snow disclosed that little fact.
* 1/2/13--Nancy Snyderman reports a story about fructose that includes ad clips from the weight-loss drug Alli (made by frequent Nightly News advertiser and sponsor GlaxoSmithKline).  The story also includes clips from Weight Watchers and Lean Cuisine ads.
* 1/6/13--Nightly News reports a story about "Downton Abbey" entitled "Downton Fever" without ever disclosing that the show is produced by Carnival Films--which is owned by NBC/Universal.
* 1/10/13--Brian tells us that in the UK, McDonald's Happy Meals will now come with a book.  As he tells us this, images of McDonald's products appear on screen for 20 seconds.
* 1/11/13--In a story about the naming rights for the former Grauman's Chinese Theater in Hollywood, Brian slips in a gratuitous mention of Tostito's.  Tostito's are made by Frito-Lay, a major advertiser and sponsor on NBC and NBC/Universal-owned networks.
* 1/14/13--Nightly News runs a "news story" about how Coca-Cola is fighting the recent backlash over sugary drinks.  More than half of this story (1:20 out of a total 2:15 run time) is comprised of Coke ad clips and product placements of Coke products.  It should be noted that the story was "reported" by Chris Jansing whose main job at NBC News seems to be using sham news stories to promote NBC sponsors.
* 1/17/13--Brian spends 30 seconds telling us all about American Airlines' new look and logo.  If there's anything Brian likes plugging as much as the U.S. auto industry, it's the U.S. airline industry.
* 1/17/13--Immediately after the American Airlines story, Brian spent another 30 seconds reporting the important news that the Subway foot-long sandwich was measured at only 11 inches.  Of course, this was only an intro that allowed him to then tell us that "millions of people know that $5 jingle on the Subway commercials", that they have "38,000 locations", and that "It's their staple--they have offered a foot-long sub since the first Subway opened its doors back in 1965."  I suspect that next time Brian goes on vacation, Nightly News will be anchored by Subway pitchman Jared Fogle.
* 1/22/13--A story about milestones that happened 40 years ago that week included the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision.  The Nightly News producers somehow felt it was important to include an inappropriate comment that had been made a year earlier by Foster Friess, a supporter of presidential candidate Rick Santorum.  On the subject of birth control, Friess said, "In  my day they used Bayer aspirin for contraceptives--the gals put it between their knees."  It's laughable to think that Friess's comment had any relevance to the anniversary of Roe v. Wade.  Clearly, this was just a cheap excuse to give Bayer another mention on Nightly News.
* 1/31/13--During a story about the Justice Department's attempt to block a merger of AB InBev (owner of Budweiser) and Corona, we were shown 12 seconds of Budweiser ad clips.  Considering all the advertising money Budweiser spends on NBC and NBC/Universal stations, I think the producers should have shown at least 25 seconds of Budweiser ad clips.
* 2/1/13--In a fawning, pandering three-minute story about Animal Planet's Puppy Bowl (reported by Brian Williams himself), Brian positioned himself on the Puppy Bowl field in just the right way to allow maximum visibility of the Geico logo.  Not an accident.
* 2/4/13--In a story about the previous day's Super Bowl commercials, Brian showed ad clips from Dodge, Budweiser, Best Buy, VW, Coke, Taco Bell, GoDaddy and Hyundai.  The 2:08 story featured 58 seconds of actual ad clips.
* 2/17/13--A story about Michael Jordan turning fifty included 13 seconds of Nike ad clips.
* 2/27/13--Brian reads a 25-second story about how Wonder Bread is "Making a Comeback".  The story is accompanied by shots of Wonder Bread, Hostess Donettes and Twinkies.
* 3/8/13--A story about mothers urging Kraft to remove orange dye from its Macaroni & Cheese got this intro from Brian: "They say Kraft Mac & Cheese is the cheesiest..."   And here's how he ended the story: "Kraft says the product is safe and healthy and they offer a multitude of products without added colors."  The Kraft Mac & Cheese logo and commercial clips were on-screen for 18 of this story's 29 seconds.
* 3/15/13--Brian read a story about how the new Notre Dame basketball uniforms--made by Adidas--were among the ugliest in sports history.  Not only was this a plug for Adidas, but also for Notre Dame, whose football games are carried on NBC.
* 3/18/13--Brian eagerly informed us that Burger King would soon be offering turkey burgers and that McDonald's would be offering egg white McMuffins.  He made sure to tell us that "fast food gets incrementally healthier".  This is news?  Brian never gets tired of shilling for fast-food companies.
* 3/22/13--In a story about how some libraries are offering seeds, the logos of DuPont, Dow, Monsanto and Bayer (naturally) appear on-screen.  By the way--the story was sponsored by Citi.
* 3/27/13--Here's how Brian began a 40-second news story about a Honda minivan that comes equipped with a vacuum: "This is for all those who fed endless quarters into those car wash vacuums rooting out Cheerios under the car seats--hard as rocks the little guys.  They then ricochet through the vacuum hose along with pennies, gravel and Skittles.  Honda has figured out a way to make a minivan that comes with its own built-in vacuum cleaner..."  Plugging Cheerios, Skittles AND Honda in the same story?  That's like a triple play!
* 3/30/13--Dimwitted correspondent Katy Tur did an entire 2:20 promotional news story about Peeps--the marshmallow Easter candy.  Part of her instructions for eating them included, "Bite the head off first...", "Nibble all around the sides...", "Stick the whole thing in your mouth at once..."  Kind of sickening, to say the least.
* 4/1/13--A story about elderly people driving longer mentioned a study by Hartford Insurance--which was accompanied by the company's large on-screen logo.  Later, in a report about April Fool's stories, we were shown logos or clips of Scope, Honda, Twitter, Google and Boden clothing.
* 4/5/13--Continuing in his role as chief propaganda spokesman for the entire fast-food industry, Brian read this breaking news story: "There's marketing news in what USA Today calls an astonishing brand reversal--KFC is about to go big on boneless chicken.  If you like a bucket of chicken, you know you'd never think to say 'boneless' when ordering it but now they're betting on the new Original Recipe Boneless in what brand experts say is the biggest new product introduction for KFC in modern times."  The story was accompanied by many shots of KFC products and clips from KFC commercials.  It's hard to imagine that KFC didn't pay NBC to have this "news story" read on-air.  This certainly confirms Brian's status as the biggest pitchman (and scumbag) on television.
* 4/8/13--During an obit for Annette Funicello, Anne Thompson (who is pretty weaselly in her own right) made sure to show a clip from Annette's old Skippy Peanut Butter ad.
* 4/19/13--After an interview with several employees from a Boston restaurant located at the Marathon finish line (who were working when the Marathon bombing happened), Brian said, "Our thanks to the staff at Forum--a good place to stop on Boylston Street next time you're in town."  As if he's ever been there.
* 5/1/13--In a story about the increase in sales of American cars, Brian specifically plugs Dodge Ram, Chevy Silverado and Ford F Series pickups.
* 5/6/13--This was quite a day for promotion (and self-promotion).  First, Brian read a story about how the Medal of Honor Society awarded its Citizen Honor Medals to the families of the teachers who were killed at Newtown.  Brian frequently reports on the Medal of Honor.  In fact, every time a MOH winner dies, Brian reports it as if it were a real news story.  Of course, one reason he does this is because he's a fawning, flattering, sycophantic military ass-kisser who fantasizes about being in the military.  But what Brian never discloses is that he sits on the Board of Directors of the Medal of Honor Foundation.  And the MOH Foundation relies heavily on donations from the public.  So by reporting frequently on the Medal of Honor, Brian is actually focusing attention on the Foundation with the goal of increasing their donations.  He's shamelessly using his broadcast to indirectly solicit funds for an organization on whose board he sits.  That's a clear conflict of interest.  And it's grossly unethical.  But Brian doesn't care.  He's Brian Freaking Williams and he gets to do whatever he wants.  About 7 minutes later, Brian read a story about how Pfizer will begin offering Viagra for sale on the web as a way of combating all the bootleg Viagra already being sold.  Of course, Pfizer is a huge Nightly News and NBC sponsor and advertiser, so by reading this story, Brian was really just giving some free publicity to one of his corporate pals (up to this point, Pfizer had sponsored nine different Nightly News "Making A Difference" segments in 2013, most recently on March 28).  During the story, Brian made sure to slip in this nugget: "Pfizer--the folks who make the real stuff."  Okay--I think we get it Mr. Pfizer Spokesperson.  And later in the broadcast, Brian reported that Bill Clinton had tried (unsuccessfully) to get Led Zeppelin to reunite for the 12/12/12 concert.  Obviously this isn't news, but it once again allowed Brian to plug the Robin Hood Foundation--another corporation on whose board he sits.  So on one broadcast, Brian managed to plug Nightly News sponsor Pfizer as well as two organizations on whose board he sits--the Medal of Honor Foundation and the Robin Hood Foundation.  That's a pretty successful day for Brian Williams.
* 5/24/13--In a story about inappropriate comments made by billionaire Paul Tudor Jones, Andrea Mitchell inserts a gratuitous plug for the Robin Hood Foundation.  Clearly, the Nightly News correspondents like to keep Brian happy.
* 6/1/13--Usually, Robert Bazell uses his stories to promote NBC advertisers like Cheerios or Bayer.  But on this day, he took a slightly different tack.  Bazell reported a story titled "Cancer Breakthrough" about the successful treatment of lung cancer and several other types of cancer through a procedure known as immune therapy, which causes white blood cells to attack and destroy cancer cells.  The story focused on research and treatment being done at Yale Cancer Center and featured an interview with the Center's Dr. Roy Herbst.  Anyone watching this story would certainly get the impression that Yale is at the forefront of cancer research, which it is.  However, Bazell  neglected to disclose one very important fact: Later this summer he will be leaving NBC News because he has accepted a position as an adjunct professor in the Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology at Yale University.  So by doing a Nightly News piece about Yale, Bazell used his current position as a news correspondent to promote his future employer.  Sleazy.
* 6/4/13--NBC Nightly News' chief medical editor Dr. Nancy Snyderman reported a story about the benefits of sunscreen as a skin protector and anti-aging agent.  The report began with a clip from a Bain de Soleil ad (including the familiar jingle "Bain de Soleil for that Saint-Tropez tan").  Later, the camera panned across a studio array of seven bottles of sunscreen, including three bottles of Coppertone--which were prominently placed in front of the others.  Both Bain de Soleil and Coppertone are owned/manufactured by the pharmaceutical giant Merck.  Eight minutes after Snyderman's story aired, Nightly News ran a commercial for Dr. Scholl's P.R.O. arch support inserts.  Dr. Scholl's is also owned by Merck.  Hardly a coincidence.  (Let's not forget that on 1/2/13, Snyderman plugged Glaxo.)
* 6/4/13--Brian spends 24 seconds telling us that Amazon will begin selling fresh food and groceries.  I don't think anyone can argue with the fact that Brian Williams has a personal mission to promote Amazon.
* 6/7/13--A story about a recently-discovered 50-year-old bomb shelter showed close-ups of some well-preserved products still inside--Reynold's Wrap, Saran Wrap, Dixie Cups, Baggies and Kleenex.
* 6/7/13--Nightly News ends with a 2:33 story on the Belmont Stakes--a race that would be carried on NBC the following day.  What's the point of having a news broadcast if you can't use it to promote your network's sports and entertainment programming?
* 6/9/13--In a story about gas prices, several of the price billboards shown included ads for McDonald's and Subway.
* 6/14/13--Kevin Tibbles' report about low wages in the fast-food industry began with a 10-second clip from a McDonald's commercial.  That's hardly surprising.  Tibbles and his producers knew that the story was unflattering to the fast-food industry, which as a whole spends huge sums of money each year advertising on NBC and the NBC/Universal networks.  So Tibbles and his producers went out of their way to throw a big bone--in the form of some free advertising--to the industry's largest player.  Tibbles also spent 20 seconds acting as a mouthpiece for the National Restaurant Association--explaining their position that fast-food restaurants provide jobs in a difficult economic environment and that "the industry is one of the best paths to achieving the American Dream".  During the story, Tibbles interviewed two fast-food workers who were unhappy with their low wages, but refused to specifically disclose where either person works.  Rule #1 at Nightly News: Protect your sponsors at all costs.  Nice job, Kevin.


  1. This is a stunning compilation of evidence that proves that Network "news"has absolutely nothing to do with news and everything to do with commerce. Brian Williams (and those like him) must put himself through some convoluted ethical gymnastics to justify his nightly breech of journalistic integrity. It's a shame that blogs like this are necessary to do his job for him. To me, it is nothing less than a tragedy that a significant portion of the viewing public actually take this man at his word. The good news, however, is that more and more people are starting to wake up to this absurdity.

  2. Just curious if you have been able to compile a list of advertisers with NBC within the last year?

  3. I haven't had the time to compile a full list of NBC/NBC News/NBC Nightly News advertisers. Unfortunately, that would be too difficult and time-consuming. On my Twitter feed (@FakeBriWilliams), I try to note where Brian Williams and other NBC News anchors/reporters do product placements or endorsements.