And the Academy Award Goes to… Embedded Ads

 And the Academy Award Goes to... Embedded Ads

THE PR VERDICT: “B” (Good Show) for Ellen DeGeneres and the Academy Awards.

This past Sunday’s Academy Awards were long at over three and a half hours, but by all accounts most people came away satisfied – notably, advertisers, fans of host Ellen DeGeneres, who was a marketer’s dream pitch person, and the network, which enjoyed higher than usual ratings.

DeGeneres quickly established that this year’s awards would be less like the usual ceremony and more like a star-studded version of her talk show. She took selfies with celebs, ordered pizza to be distributed among them – there was fun spontaneity.

Or fun product integration, more like. The star-filled selfie was taken with a smartphone made by Samsung, one of the show’s sponsors. Mild oops when Ellen used an iPhone for later selfies backstage, and when Coke came with the pizza – sponsor Pepsi was not amused. But overall, the free-for-all worked: This year’s Academy Awards pulled in a higher viewership of 43.7 million, and sponsors love those eyeballs.

THE PR VERDICT: “B” (Good Show) for Ellen DeGeneres and the Academy Awards.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Keep both sponsors and viewers in mind. At what point does embedded marketing become obvious, even obnoxious? When it’s not fun. Show producers worked well with advertisers to come up with seemingly impromptu, entertaining ways to spotlight brand names. Not that viewers may even have noticed: A recent Frontline segment showed that young social media users have no idea what the term “selling out” means. Advertisers are moving away from the clunky early days of obvious product integration in movies and TV shows and into an age of clever brand spotlighting.

Today Show Scores a Great “Get” With Deen

 Today Show Scores a Great Get With Deen

The PR Verdict: “A” (PR Perfect) to The Today Show. (Pictured: Paula Deen and Today Show host Matt Lauer)

How quickly PR fortunes can change. Last month, NBC’s The Today Show was facing a PR fiasco, with falling ratings, a scathing cover story in New York Magazine, and a tell-all book that painted a rather unflattering picture of host Matt Lauer. At the same time, Paula Deen was enjoying success with shows on The Food Network, her own magazine, many cookbooks, and heading a multi-million dollar empire. This month, everything has changed for both.

Last week, Deen’s PR began to flame out amid allegations that Deen used racist terms and condoned a racist atmosphere at her restaurant. She quickly scheduled a damage control interview last Friday on The Today Show, which she then blew off, citing exhaustion. After being dropped by The Food Network and one of her sponsors, Deen rescheduled her Today interview for this morning.

Ratings are sure to be high, and it’s a great “get” for Today, even if it’s a “re-get.” In addition to having to answer questions about the allegations, Deen must address blowing off Matt Lauer, as well as her apology videos that have been criticized as widely missing the right PR mark. The only better “get” would be missing NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden – and no one will be surprised to see Today get him first.

THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR Perfect) to The Today Show for reversing their poor PR.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Nothing kills bad PR like success. The Today Show took its lumps, but it kept right on going, and when opportunity knocked, it pounced. Having been a friendly interrogator in the past – Deen chose Today when she revealed she had Type 2 diabetes, known to be caused or aggravated by the high-fat cuisine she’s famous for – Today was a natural choice for Deen’s public mea culpa. The lesson presented: When hit with bad PR, you can’t afford the luxury of pain. Get up and find every opportunity to get back to what you were known for.

Another Bad Week for “Today” Show

 Another Bad Week for Today Show

is THE PR VERDICT: “C” (Distinctly OK) for Today Show publicists.

There hasn’t been a truly good morning for NBC’s Today Show in months. Ratings have been slipping steadily, advertising millions have been lost, and the media seems not to tire of reporting both. Then, this past week, a behind-the-scenes feature in New York Magazine threw a harsh glare on the morning show’s troubles.

For PRs reading the article, the dilemma becomes apparent quickly: grant access to a reporter who is starting from a negative place, or refuse access, knowing the story will be written anyway? In this case, access was granted and control of some sort established via the presence of two PRs in the interview with Today heavy hitters.

One can only imagine the amount of prepping the PRs did with hosts Savannah Guthrie, Al Roker, Natalie Morales, and, in particular, Matt Lauer. He has been in the media’s sights, portrayed as the architect of former co-anchor Ann Curry’s ouster, and everything from the cornerstone of the program to a controlling tyrant. Also last week, a former Today Show intern tweeted that Lauer was “not so nice,” and a story circulated that co-host Guthrie gave Lauer the finger after he teased her on set. Access or not, Today‘s negative press is turning into a bad dream the show’s PRs can’t wake up from.

THE PR VERDICT: “C” (Distinctly OK) for Today Show publicists. Damage control is being handled, but with the issue of falling ratings and whispers of host changes, PR options are limited.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Choose battles carefully, and know when to fight. Negative press was inevitable due to the ratings slide, the revelation of Lauer’s negotiations with rival network ABC, and Curry’s awkward departure. In this case what was needed was new news to change the conversation. This article might have begun the turnaround that Today needs, but in the absence of a big bright idea, sometimes a PR just has to hope things look better tomorrow.

To read the New York Magazine article, click here.

GMA Weather Report: Sunny for Gay Marriage & Ratings

s SAM CHAMPION large300 150x150 GMA Weather Report: Sunny for Gay Marriage & Ratings

The PR Verdict: “A” (PR Perfect) for Good Morning America. (Pictured: Rubem Robierb and Sam Champion)

Last Friday, Good Morning America weatherman Sam Champion was singled out by his cheering co-hosts as having good news to share: He was engaged. During hearty congratulations from a crew that seems closer than most morning show personnel, it was easy to miss one slightly surprising aspect: Champion was not only engaged, but also coming out.

The announcement of Champion’s engagement fit right in with GMA’s congenial, family-like vibe, and the fact that he will  his marry longtime boyfriend Rubem Robierb did not merit the batting of a single on-air lash. Outside GMA’s studio in Times Square, Champion was met by viewers from all over America who congratulated him like extended members of the GMA family.

The hosts on Good Morning America have been positioning themselves as a family for a while now, especially since co-host Robin Roberts decided to publicly share her battle with MDS, a rare bone marrow disorder. Video segments have been devoted to her bone marrow transplant while co-host George Stephanopoulos has struggled to maintain composure as he reads her blogs to GMA viewers. And the ratings keep on climbing.

The PR Verdict: “A” (PR Perfect) for Good Morning America winning ratings with team chemistry, not sensationalism.

The PR Takeaway: Keep it in the family. Gone are the days when GMA could only dream of approaching the ratings of the mighty Today Show. Now, GMA has overtaken Today. In the wake of an uncomfortable public dismissal of Ann Curry and reports that Today host Matt Lauer is losing popularity with viewers, GMA’s folksy, seemingly sincere family approach is winning hearts – and ratings. Team chemistry is the main drawcard here, and sharing the good and the painful is what makes this more than just a slick marketing gimmick. Viewers seem to be liking it, and they keep on coming back for more.

What’s your opinion of GMA’s “family style” approach? Give us your PR Verdict!