Here's an American reality for you: We expect commercialization. Sponsorships make the wheels go 'round (just ask NASCAR). We're OK with this, as long as you leave certain sacred cows out of it. Elected officials would have to head that list.
But I submit to you this: perhaps it's time to end this separation of consumer and state.
I'm not suggesting out-and-out sponsorship of politicians. No, let's just leave that behind the invisible curtain of lobbyists. It doesn't have to be all that overt, nor should it line the pockets of the politicians themselves. What it would do is allow those impressions that are so valued by advertisers to translate directly into driving down the national deficit.
Let's allow product placement in the State of the Union Address.
For example, at a certain point in the speech, I fully expected President Obama to say "You know, Diet Dr Pepper really DOES taste just like regular Dr Pepper!"
Or "It's time that we finally cleaned up Washington - which is now even easier with Kenmore's new multi-motion green technology of their Elite series of washing machines, available only at Sears."
Other integrations wouldn't have to be quite as blatant as that. A box of Kleenex on Speaker John Boehner's desk would have to be interpreted as fairly organic. Or Michele Bachmann sipping Lipton - what could be more natural than that? Charlie Rangel sporting a 1-800-USLAWYERS t-shirt? Hey, you have to get direct response in there somewhere. Who better than someone whose troubles started with ignoring the rules of Congress for reaching out to your constituents (customers) on official government time?
Wouldn't Nancy Pelosi been rock-solid for one of those "Wanna get away?" spots? Just superimpose the tagline over her during an uncomfortable portion of the address. We'll get it.
So besides those Obama voiceovers, most of the placements could be done digitally, to avoid blurring the line of impropriety and implied kickbacks from sponsors. If they really want to be ambitious, they could always decide to appropriate funding for green-screen technology on the floor of the House of Representatives. How great would it be to see Congress taking on the important business of the country, all while enjoying a Carnival cruise?
Besides providing a national service and financial windfall, this sponsorship plan would accomplish one other thing: It would force Nielsen to provide ratings for the telecast. Currently, Nielsen doesn't report viewership numbers for the speech, as it is non-advertised content. So we are forced to assume that the viewership of the commercial content that airs after the speech is a relatively accurate surrogate for the network's coverage of the speech itself. That's rather arrogant of the media, to assume that people are as interested in their spin-fest and commentary as they are the major address from the leader of the free world that preceded it.
Different networks would be able to sell different packages, extending promotional opportunities. "Look, I can give you a package for a John Kerry/Rand Paul, but you'll have to take Harry Reid, too." "No, sorry, the NY market deal has to include Lieberman - you can't just get Schumer and Gillibrand. Not without premium Tier 1 pricing."
The only catch is that the networks can't pocket the profits here, either. All revenues coming from this plan go directly towards paying down the national debt. But that's not to say that certain government agencies wouldn't take their cooperation into account during regulatory hearings for the next mega-merger of media properties, should something like that actually happen in this day and age.
So in the spirit of free market capitalism that will win our future, let's hope that by January 2012 we'll be able to reasonably know which news organization's network delivered the most consumers to the "State of the Union Address," sponsored by Fidelity Investments -- "Get More For Less"; and by Dannon -- "Where High Quality Ingredients Create a High Quality Product."
Or, in the words of the Majority Floor Services Chief and House Sergeant at Arms, "Mister Speaker, the President of the United States, brought to you by McDonald's -- I'm Lovin' It!"