Posted by Daniel Price on March 19, 2006

A Fresh-Cut Front For the Flower Flacks

Planted Valentine's Day report secretly stems from rose peddlers

Clients: Flower Promotion Organization
Release Date: February 2006
Aired By: 5 stations
Disclosed By: No stations

In 1999, the Flower Promotion Organization (FPO) was created to end a 30-year trade war between U.S. and Colombian flower growers. Since then, with the help of major PR firms like Porter Novelli, the bi-national industry alliance has embarked on a strategic multi-million dollar campaign to raise consumer demand for cut flowers.

Naturally, there's no better time for the FPO to push their buds than Valentine's Day. So on February 13, a video news release (VNR) created by Medialink Worldwide and funded by the FPO was distributed to TV stations across the country. The two-minute fake news feature centered around the floral care advice of Dr. Bridget Behe, a professor of horticulture at Michigan State University. In addition to gorgeous shots of roses in full bloom, the VNR directs viewers to Behe's Flower MD website and a toll-free hotline, both sponsored by the FPO.

Over the next 36 hours, the VNR was blended into the afternoon newscasts of five different stations: KLST-8 (San Angelo, TX), WCPO-9 (Cincinnati, OH), WGCL-46 (Atlanta, GA), WHNT-19 (Huntsville, AL), and WHP-21 (Harrisburg, PA). Each newsroom performed significant editing on the original video package, trimming the story down to one minute or less and re-organizing the order of certain shots and soundbites. All five stations actively disguised the VNR as their own news product by inserting station-branded text overlays and replacing the narrative audio of the Medialink publicist with the voice of their own reporter. None of the newscasts cited Medialink or the Flower Promotion Organization as the source of their story.

Previously, WCPO-9 had deceptively incorporated a prescription skin cream VNR into its broadcast, while WHP-21 had participated in a live satellite media tour without disclosing Subway as the funding source.

View the original VNR, as well as the WGCL-46 feature, below.

Original FPO VNR WGCL-46 4PM newscast
Created by Medialink February 13, 2006
Voiced by publicist Voiced by station reporter
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