Ford Mustang Drives NBC’s ‘The Blacklist’

Editor’s note: This post really should have run on our kissing’ cousin, Sneak Adtack, but the hardtracking site seems to be experiencing technical difficulties. So . . . 

Gird your loins, splendid readers: We’ve apparently been cast as extras in a new production of 50 Shades of Pay. Here’s yet the latest brand domination of TV content, via MediaPost (whose headline gets it exactly backward):

NBCUniversal’s ‘The Blacklist’ Drives Mustang GT In Custom Campaign

fordart-188_v1C2SzAIn movie and TV history, the Ford Mustang has been the getaway car, whether from the bad guy, the Man, or less tangible enemies and shackles. Now Mustang GT is the vehicle of independence for Tom Keen, the ex-spy in NBC Universal’s hit show “The Blacklist.” In a partnership launching April 30, Ford not only has product integration in the show, but a raft of custom Mustang spots produced by the network with Team Detroit, Ford’s agency. The effort features a 60-second spot and shorter versions that star Ryan Eggold speaking in character — as Keen — about the virtues of self determination, cut with chase scenes as he drives the Mustang GT away from nefarious pursuers.

The ads (which you can see during this Thursday’s season finale):





You can also jump in the NBC sellout pool at #UnleashTomKeen on Twitter.

We’re tempted to say that the real twits are all the consumers who simply consider this business as usual. But we won’t. Because the blame rests squarely on the media organizations (like NBC and all these others) that pimp out their content to marketers.

Problem is, the list is getting too long for even us to keep count.

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Michael Reagan Milks the Old Man Like a Cash Cow

Well the hardworking staff opened up the old mailbag today and here’s what poured out:


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And etc.

So, pony up for the Reagan Ranch and get a swell calendar.


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Year in pictures:


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You might wonder: Why exactly is the hardneutral staff getting Reaganabilia in fundraising mail?

Because we subscribe to The Weekly Standard, which apparently sells our name to every conservative outfit with a dollar in its pocket.

Then again, we also subscribe to The New Republic, which apparently doesn’t have enough brains to sell our name to every liberal outfit with a dollar in its pocket,

Which is why, despite Hillary Clinton’s newfound zeal to panhandle for Super PAC bucks, GOPniks will likely outspend Democrats this presidential election too.

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The War Over ‘War of the Worlds’ – Myth or Math?

Conventional wisdom holds that Orson Welles’s 1938 radio broadcast of War of the Worlds terrorized an entire nation.

Representative sample from the following day:




But that’s not really what happened, as Jefferson Pooley and Michael J. Socolow chronicled in Slate on October 28, 2013.

The Myth of the War of the Worlds Panic

Orson Welles’ infamous 1938 radio program did not touch off nationwide hysteria. Why does the legend persist?

Wednesday marks the 75th anniversary of Orson Welles’ electrifying War of the Worlds broadcast, in which the Mercury Theatre on the Air enacted a Martian invasion of Earth. “Upwards of a million people, [were] convinced, if only briefly, 131028_HIST_OrsonWelles.jpg.CROP.promovar-medium2that the United States was being laid waste by alien invaders,” narrator Oliver Platt informs us in the new PBS documentary commemorating the program. The panic inspired by Welles made War of the Worlds perhaps the most notorious event in American broadcast history.

That’s the story you already know—it’s the narrative widely reprinted in academic textbooks and popular histories. With actors dramatizing the reaction of frightened audience members (based on contemporaneous letters), the new documentary, part of PBS’s American Experience series, reinforces the notion that naïve Americans were terrorized by their radios back in 1938. So did this weekend’s episode of NPR’s Radiolab, which opened with the assertion that on Oct. 30, 1938, “The United States experienced a kind of mass hysteria that we’ve never seen before.”

There’s only one problem: The supposed panic was so tiny as to be practically immeasurable on the night of the broadcast. Despite repeated assertions to the contrary in the PBS and NPR programs, almost nobody was fooled by Welles’ broadcast.

Pooley and Socolow proceed to put some numbers to their thesis:

The night the program aired, the C.E. Hooper ratings service telephoned 5,000 households for its national ratings survey. “To what program are you listening?” the service asked respondents. Only 2 percent answered a radio “play” or “the Orson Welles program,” or something similar indicating CBS. None said a “news broadcast,” according to a summary published in Broadcasting. In other words, 98 percent of those surveyed were listening to something else, or nothing at all, on Oct. 30, 1938.

Now comes A. Brad Schwartz’s new book Broadcast Hysteria: Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds and the Art of Fake News, which also questions how many people were really “terrorized.”

From yesterday’s The Takeaway with John Hockenberry:

[B]y the next day, a media sensation had been created. Headlines on papers like The New York Daily News and the Boston Globe declared that the radio play had terrified an entire nation.

But how many people were really scared? And what was it that they were actually frightened of?

Turns out – according to Schwartz – the public was really frightened about “what this said about their country” and whether “democracy could survive in the mass media age.” There was also “great concern about the power of propaganda – especially through the medium of radio.”

Think Fr. Coughlin and Huey Long.

From there The Takeaway interview moved to Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. (Listen here.) Interesting.

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Let Lord Stanley’s Wild Rumpus Begin! (Flames Rise From the Ashes Edition)

So the Calgary Flames were down 2-0 in their Western Conference semifinal series v. the Anaheim Ducks when Tuesday night’s hockey game broke out, and it didn’t look especially good for the Flames.

In the third period, down 3-2, the Flames seemed to score the tying goal – but they didn’t.



Then, during a freaky-deaky 5-0n-3 late in the third, there was this from Johnny Gaudreau at :19.5.



And then, in overtime, this:



And now, it’s a series.

God bless Lord Stanley, yeah?

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Wall Street Journal Finally Catches Up with Sneak Adtack

From our Where You Been? desk

This distressing piece ran in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal Media & Marketing section (web headline: “Don’t Sleep on Content Marketing”).

‘Content Marketing’ Goes to the Next Level

Many companies have hired editorial staffers in recent years to write content for their blogs and be their voices on social media. Now, some are going further by building full-blown media properties of their own.

Take startup mattress brand Casper, for example. The company BN-IF138_casper_D_20150501181945is currently hiring journalists and gearing up to start its own standalone Web publication about sleep. The site doesn’t have a name or a URL yet, but it’s slated to launch later this spring.

“Sleep is a growing subject that lacks a true editorial authority,” said Lindsay Kaplan, Casper’s vice president of communications.

This type of “content marketing” is in vogue. Instead of “renting” audiences with paid advertising, companies are increasingly producing their own content in an effort to attract consumers’ attention themselves, with the ultimate goal of promoting their brands, products, interests and ideas.

Excellent reporting!

Except . . .

The hardtracking staff at Sneak Adtack (not to mention the Nieman Journalism Lab) was on this story like Brown on Williamson – let’s see – four weeks ago.

To wit:

Brand Content Lulling Consumers to Sleep

As the hardtracking staff has relentlessly noted, branded content/sponsored posts/native advertising are like kudzu – a serious invasive plant. Once it takes root, kudzu invariably overwhelms the environment it inhabits.

Exhibit Umpteen, via the Nieman Journalism Lab: A mattress company is starting an online publication devoted to sleep.

MediaBistro’s Help Wanted ad.



Got that, all you “workflow masters who live for the style guide but also protect the writer’s voice?” Your future lies at Casper, a mattress company that produces a bed that loves you back. (The company is also looking for a staff writer and a social media editor.)

The whole thing is the perfect metaphor for stealth marketing: It lulls you to sleep, then colors your dreams.

Of course, as long as you wake refreshed, you don’t really care, do you?

But maybe you should . . .

Read the rest here.

And – hey, Journalniks – maybe every once in a while you should read Sneak Adtack yourselves.

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Taking the ‘Mum’ Out of Mumia Abu-Jamal

Mumia Abu-Jamal is the Great American Rorschach Test.

Cop killer? Or political prisoner?

You tell us.

And don’t be surprised if  Abu-Jamal himself weighs in, thanks to a new federal court ruling this week. Associated Press report (via the Delaware County Daily Times):

Judge tosses ‘mental anguish’ law spurred by Mumia Abu-Jamal commencement speech


HARRISBURG, Pa. >> A federal judge Tuesday threw out a Pennsylvania law designed to prevent offenders from causing mental anguish to crime victims, calling it an illegal restriction on the right to free expression.

U.S. District Judge Christopher Conner ruled against the law that was enacted quickly late last year after Mumia Abu-Jamal gave a recorded commencement address to a small Vermont college. Abu-Jamal is serving life for the 1981 killing of Officer Daniel Faulkner in Philadelphia.

Conner wrote this: “A past criminal offense does not extinguish the offender’s constitutional right to free expression. The First Amendment does not evanesce at the prison gate, and its enduring guarantee of freedom of speech subsumes the right to expressive conduct that some may find offensive.”

Coincidentally (or not), this ad ran in yesterday’s New York Times.


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So, the Committee to Save Mumia Abu-Jamal has spoken.

We’ll be interested to see if he follows suit.

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Let the $10 Billion Rumpus Begin!

From our Val-PAC desk

The hardworking staff recently trumpeted the estimated $9 billion price tag for the 2016 election cycle, but Bloomberg’s Al Hunt has a slight adjustment.

How Record Spending Will Affect 2016 Election

The role of money and politics in the 2016 presidential election is a conundrum.

Humongous sums will be spent; the effect on the outcome could be minimal, but in time the flood of cash may produce Watergate-level money scandals.

Spending by candidates, parties and outside groups and individuals may approach $10 billion. Both Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush, if they receive their parties’ nominations, each could spend more than $2 billion, about twice as much as Barack Obama and Mitt Romney each forked out in 2012.

Hell, the Things Go Better with Koch brothers alone will probably spend $3o0 million.

As Matea Gold writes in the Washington Post:

Never before have so many people with so much money run for president

The 2016 Republican presidential contest, designed to be a tidy affair, is instead shaping up to be a chaotic, drawn-out slog, thanks largely to an expanding pool of rich patrons raining money on a broad field of candidates.

Former Florida governor Jeb Bush has raised tens of millions of dollars for his allied super PAC, collecting a historic amount, he told donors Sunday night. But that hasn’t been enough to stop his rivals from amassing their own stockpiles. A super PAC supporting Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida secured about $20 million in commitments in less than two weeks, according to people familiar with the totals. An independent operation backing Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas says it pulled in $31 million in a single week. A new super PAC allied with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has almost matched that in pledges, fundraisers say.

Never have so many candidates entered a White House contest boosted by such huge sums. The financial arms race could fuel a protracted primary season similar to the one in 2012 — exactly what party leaders were hoping to avoid.

Helpful graphic:


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Of course, all the undeclared candidates also have super PACs, so lots more to come.


Nowadays, every politician is a PACifist, yeah?

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Matt Labash Makes Kim Jong Ill

The hardworking staff has long been an un(L)abashed fan of Weekly Standard feature writer Matt Labash, and his latest piece makes us even more so.

Troublemaker for Tyrants

Thor Halvorssen hammers the Kims

From the moment his dead-of-night emails, texts, and encrypted Wickr messages start flooding my inboxes like a storm surge, it’s clear that Thor Halvorssen, who keeps vampire hours, is not your average clock-punching do-goodnik.

The 39-year-old Halvorssen is president of the New York-based Human Rights Foundation (HRF), which he launched in 2005. Half-Norwegian, half-Venezuelan (born and raised in Caracas, he speaks accentless American English), he descends from WELL.v20-29.2015-04-06.Labash.JungYeon-Je_AFP_Gettyassorted swashbucklers and heads of state. His paternal grandfather Øystein, who was the Norwegian king’s consul in Venezuela during World War II, diverted all of Norway’s merchant fleet to Venezuelan ports when the Germans invaded his homeland, then had a fistfight with a couple Nazis when they stopped by to object. His mother is descended from the first president of Venezuela, Cristóbal Mendoza, as well as from Simón “The Liberator” Bolívar, the statesman/military leader who helped win Latin America’s independence from Spain. For Thor, as for his forebears, human rights and individual liberty are not something that should be on the table in any discussion, they are the table upon which all other discussions rest.

Halvorssen is a second-generation protestor: “[His] father was tortured in a Caracas prison. His mother was shot in an anti-Hugo Chávez demonstration. His first cousin Leopoldo López—a perpetual challenger of the Chavista regime that failed to die with its namesake—is currently gutting it out as a political prisoner in a Venezuelan jail.”

And Halvorssen, who founded the Human Rights Foundation, is deep into the family business, fighting dictatorships the world over – especially in North Korea, an effort Labash chronicles in sometimes excruciating detail.

But the one who gets me—who gets everyone—is Ji Seong-ho, who runs a group called Now, Action, Unity, and Human Rights. He’s 34 years old but appears about 19. He has an artificial hand that looks like a mannequin’s. He’s missing part of one leg, too. When he crossed the Tumen for the first time, it wasn’t to defect, but just to secure food. (He lost his grandmother to starvation during the ’90s famine.) He noticed that the Chinese fed their dogs better than most North Koreans ate. When he returned, authorities snatched him, confiscated his rice, and tortured him. Another person was arrested along with him but didn’t get beaten as badly, since the government has a special distaste for the disabled. (Some witnesses say the DPRK conducts experiments on them.)

Compelling as this is, Ji blows through the details of his life as most of the defectors do: quickly, as though he doesn’t want to impose on us.

Halvorssen has been launching balloons into North Korea to deposit leaflets, money, and – yes – DVDs of The Interview. Labash’s piece ends with the rabble-rouser contemplating the potential of using drones for the job.

Thor Halvorssen is a remarkable character, and Matt Labash’s profile of him is compelling journalism.

Not to mention a lead-pipe cinch for the next round of David Brooks’s Sidney Awards.

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Triple Overtime? Welcome to the Stanley Cup Playoffs

Say, that was some barnburner between the Nashville Predators and the Chicago Blackhawks last night, yeah?

The hardwatching staff has been a little low on the uptake this Stanley Cup season (we have a new TV setup that we’re not quite acclimated to), but we got back into the swing with a bang.

First, there was regulation play. (Spoiler alert: OT begins at 2:12.)



It was 2-2 into the first overtime, during which Predators goalie Pekka Rinne lost the puck in his equipment for several minutes.



Then there was the second overtime.

Then there was the third.

Then there was this, exactly one minute in, compliments of Brent Seabrook.



Okay, then. Now we’re cooking.

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Let the $9b Rumpus Begin! (Ad Early and Often Edition)

The air wars of Dustup 2016™ have gone from zero to :30 in no time flat. So the hardwatching staff is pleased to provide this handy clip ‘n’ save guide to the preliminary rounds, which range from the Presidential Donnybrook to the U.S. Senate Rumpus to the Blue Grass State GOP Gubernatorial Slap Fight.

(Omnibus tip o’ the pixel to Politico, the Washington Post, Bloomberg, NBC News, The Hill, New York Magazine, and etc.)

Start at the top with the Presidential Campaign.

Ted Cruz (R-Great White South) ran about $33,000 worth of TV spots Easter weekend on Fox News’s “Killing Jesus” and NBC’s “AD: The Bible Continues” in Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

The ad, not surprisingly, is titled Blessing.



Fun fact to know and tell: “Ted Cruz’s first TV commercial features…a stock photo from Russia. Another clip from the same commercial is marketed on a stock footage site as being of a depressed man contemplating suicide.”

A Democrat, no doubt.

Meanwhile, the other announced GOP presidential wannabe, Rand Paul (R-I’m Not Ron), is getting whacked by a million-dollar ad blitz from an outfit called The Foundation for a Secure and Prosperous America.

Representative sample:



BuzzFeed reports that the Paul campaign has sent a cease-and-desist notice to the stations running the ad. Don’t hold your breath.

Moving on to U.S. Senate races.

NARAL Pro-Choice America launched an ad in four swing states accusing GOP senators of holding up the sex-trafficking bill in Congress by attaching abortion regulations to it. Targets: Mark Kirk (Illinois), Ron Johnson (Wisconsin), Kelly Ayotte (New Hampshire) and Richard Burr (North Carolina).

The four ads are here.

Meanwhile, from Politico’s Morning Score:

The NRDC and the Moms Clean Air Force are going after Sen. Rob Portman in a TV ad alleging he ‘led the charge in Congress last month to allow power plants to keep polluting our air.’ They are referring to a budget amendment Portman introduced in March that would have allowed states to opt out of federal clean air regulations. That amendment never made it to a vote, but the ad pulls no punches.

Of course it doesn’t. But this time, do hold your breath.



Leaves you breathless, no?

(P.S. Raise your hand if you think Moms Clean Air Force is a prototypical Astroturf group. Yeah, us too.)

And now, downshifting to the Kentucky Governor’s Race.

Matt Bevin (he just lost a Senate primary to Mitch McConnell) has launched the first ad in the GOP gubernatorial primary. It will air on broadcast TV in the Louisville, Lexington, Cincinnati and Bowling Green and southeastern Kentucky markets, and statewide on cable and satellite networks.

The ad features his nine kids – some of them apparently foster kids – and his wife delivering character references.



Meanwhile, an outfit called Kentuckians for Growth, Opportunity and Prosperity says it’s preparing to buy between $450,000 and $475,000 of television advertising in support of Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, also running in the GOP gubernatorial primary.

Their first sally:



Of course, Comer also has his own TV spot:



Toss in Rand Paul’s running for two separate offices in 2016, and you’ve got Six Flags Over Kentucky for the next 15 months.

Special Bonus (Neville Chamberlain Division)

The American Legacy PAC (board of advisors includes Bill Kristol and Newt Gingrich) is running an ad that juxtaposes Nazi storm troopers marching with Barack Obama playing golf. It closes with Neville Chamberlain’s face morphing into Obama’s.




On the off chance you want more, check out this ABC News post.

At your own peril.

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