The Howard Stern Contradiction: Pro-Product Placement, Anti-Broadcast

Talk about your product placement! Howard Stern may not like the restrictions of traditional broadcast airwaves, but he knows its value in marketing products.

Howard Stern's appearance on "The Late Show With David Letterman" last night must have the marketing guys at Sirius Satellite Radio doing high-fives and fist-pounds.

Not only did Sirius buy a 30-second commercial before Howard Stern's appearance on "Letterman," but Stern mentioned the benefits of pay-satellite radio and Sirius' name about 20 times during his three-segment appearance.

In October, Stern announced he was abandoning traditional radio, signing a five-year $500 million deal with Sirius that would start in 2006. Then yesterday - no doubt timed for Stern's "Letterman" appearance -- Stern's former boss, Mel Karmazin, who resigned as president/CEO of Viacom earlier this year announced he would take over the reins as chief executive officer of Sirius.



That's not all. Sirius' name and product had complete product integration in "Letterman." At the end of the show, Stern held up a Sirius boom box, complete with a big Sirius product card attached to the unit.

All this may have been "organic," as they say in product placement-land. But then it became too much. Going into a commercial break, as Stern was leaving, the camera gave viewers a static 'beauty' shot of the Sirius boom box.

Currently, federal regulators are looking in to whether product placement deals should be identified for viewers. But Stern is way ahead of the curve. All week during his radio show, he said he wasn't going to do any funny bits - no lesbians kissing, no getting spanked. He was just going to talk about his problems with the FCC and his move to Sirius.

At one point, Stern said to the "Letterman" audience: "I don't really want to go all QVC on you." That was enough of a clue. To his word, he did talk about his disdain for the FCC, the religious right, and other groups.

While Stern may not think much of the public airwaves that run TV and radio programming, he knows the value TV has in selling product to the biggest audiences.

With that formula for success, no doubt we'll see more of Stern's serious businessman persona on "Letterman" in the future. And maybe, once in a while, he'll also do what he does best -- pull down his now Sirius-embroidered underpants so someone can spank him.

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