At Halloween Time, the Candy Ads Dress Up as News

St. Louis TV reporter does word-for-word re-voice on publicist VNR

Submitted by Daniel Price on
Clients: Masterfoods/1-800-Flowers
Release Date: October 2005
Aired By: 2 stations
Disclosed By: No stations

On October 28, 2005, KTVI-2 (St. Louis, MO) aired a two-minute segment on how to plan a fun and safe Halloween for your kids. The story, which featured numerous tips from "lifestyle expert" Julie Edelman, was teeming with product shots for brand name candies such as Snickers and M&Ms, as well as a Halloween bouquet arrangement from 1-800-Flowers.

What viewers didn't know is that the whole story was lifted straight from a video news release (VNR) created by D S Simon Productions and jointly funded by Masterfoods (formerly the M&M/Mars Company) and 1-800-Flowers.

In the few occasions where a TV station has been exposed for airing a VNR without disclosure, the news director has often claimed that the station was unaware of the source of the footage. But in the course of its ten-month study, the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) studied hundreds of VNRs and VNR announcements and found—without exception—that the PR firms had clearly and accurately divulged the complete client funding information. D S Simon includes this disclosure in several different sections of their VNRs, most notably in the opening title slates:


It's extremely unlikely that KTVI-2 missed this information. Either way, the disclosure never made it to viewers. The station followed the script provided by D S Simon nearly word-for-word, but enlisted one of their own reporters, Margie Ellisor, to replace the publicist's narration. They also branded the feature with station graphics, furthering the illusion that this was a legitimate KTVI-2 story.

The VNR also aired in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on October 28. WVTV-18, a WB affiliate, ran the complete and unedited VNR, including the publicist's original narration. Like KTVI-2, the station failed to disclose to viewers that the story was bought and paid for by two major corporations.

View the entire KTVI-2 news segment, as well as the original VNR, below. Additionally, CMD has uncovered another VNR and an SMT featuring "expert" Julie Edelman.

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Back to VNR Findings
Original Masterfoods VNR KTVI-2 news report
Created by DS Simon Productions October 28, 2005
Voiced by publicist Re-voiced by station reporter