A Milwaukee station is walking dangerously close to the line, of having their anchors shill product on the air.
WTMJ News anchors Mike Jacobs and Carole Meekins are shown in spots promoting a contest on their station. In the spot the anchors are all smiles in the checkout area of a Sendik’s Food Market.
The station in connection with Sendik’s, is giving away $100 gift cards weekly for groceries with a $5,200 grand prize of “Groceries 4 a Year.” So, basically you have the anchors shilling for Sendik's.
Steve Wexler (pictured), executive vice president of Journal Broadcast Group (WTMJ's parent company), vehemently disagrees with any suggestion that his marquee news anchors are serving as advertisers.
“Frankly, it’s kind of silly,” Wexler tells the Milwaukee Business Journal . “That’s pretty mild stuff, actually,” he adds.
“You won’t see news staff appear in any paid commercial advertising,” he says.
Wexler believes that the WTMJ viewers are sophisticated enough to tell a commercial for an advertiser from and a station promotion.
“I think our viewers know the difference between selling a product and asking people to log onto our a website and enter a contest,” he told me.
For Sendik’s, the contest is a fun way to reach more prospective customers, the chain’s communications manager Nick Bandoch told me. He said Channel 4 representatives did not discuss the use of news anchors when the campaign was being planned.
The contest is separate from a regular advertising schedule Sendik’s runs on WTMJ, Bandoch told me.
“We’re just really excited to give away the groceries every week,” he said. “The cool part for us is we can’t wait till the $5,200.”
Spin however you want, the spot is still a commercial for the grocery store. It's a slippery slope for sure, but so many stations have slid down to bottom, that pimping by news anchors has become as much a part of the job as reading the prompter.