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Networks Consider Ways to Minimize Wartime Losses

Product Placement, Reality Specials on Tap.


by Marcos Johnsones
February 22, 2003

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Networks Consider Ways to Minimize Wartime Losses_Marcos Johnsones-Product Placement, Reality Specials on Tap. NEW YORK, NY (PO) — As the specter of war with Iraq approaches, television networks are weighing their options to buffer substantial loss of advertising revenue that would likely occur in the event of a full-scale war. Among the most favored strategies is the digital insertion of ads within actual war footage.

"Don't be surprised if you see a tank with a Pepsi logo on it," says CBS spokesman Larry Benson, who points to the financial woes that came with the onset of the Gulf War in 1991. "It's a regrettable solution, but we simply can't afford to offer the public round-the-clock news coverage without advertising dollars to pay the bills. This is something we believe the public will come to accept once they realize that the ads are not physically placed on the camouflaged vehicles or soldiers themselves. It's all digital."

Advertisers have traditionally been skittish at wartime, but network executives feel confident that product placement, in the right places, will appeal to corporations interested in supporting U.S. troops.

"Nobody wants to sponsor the daily body count," explains Benson, "but there is significant marketing value in having your product seen with our brave, heroic troops."

When tensions begin to ease, more traditional commercials will once again be the norm, but many ads will reflect the tone of developing news events. Mastercard already has an ad prepared in the event of a sweeping Allied victory: "One B-2 Bomber: $2.2 Billion; One Cruise Missile: $3 Million; seeing Saddam get his butt kicked: priceless."

Network entertainment divisions are working on contingency plans as well. In the interest of providing much-needed comic relief, ABC will offer "The U.S. Military's Funniest Flubs and Screw-Ups." NBC is looking for Navy Seals to participate in a "Fear Factor" special, tentatively titled "Escape from Certain Death." CBS is reportedly casting for "Survivor: Baghdad" as host Jeff Probst negotiates a major salary increase.

A new series from Fox, "Love Shelter," will pose the burning question "Can true love survive constant carpet-bombing?" as ten beautiful women vie for a young man's affection while confined to an underground bomb shelter near an Iraqi military base. One Fox insider has hinted that the hunky bachelor may not be all that he seems. "He's a closet homosexual," said the source.

With the U.S. military's decision to grant the media unprecedented access to front lines, the WB network hopes to cash in on the talent search craze with "American Sharp-Shooter," which will follow Army Rangers as they compete through feats of rifle marksmanship. Viewer voting, and possibly enemy gunfire, will decide who advances to the next round.

Stay tuned, America. Thanks to the networks' outside-the-box thinking and advance preparation, industry analysts say Gulf War II is poised to become the highest-rated war in television history.

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