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Smoke in Mirrors

Oct08

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So, we get a voice mail message at Alpha Mom from a producer letting us know that the show Today’s Family is interested in perhaps including us in a segment that they are producing on Best of the Web. But we should call her assistant for more information. I always pass on these requests to our publicist for vetting.
My publicist, Callie, checked it out and set-up a call with the producer of Today’s Family who made a point of telling Callie that she wasn’t sure that Alpha Mom was an appropriate fit for the segment, but she wanted to talk to us.
What? I called Callie and grilled her. What do you mean? Why is she not sure? Did she indicate why she wasn’t sure?
Then came my phone interview with the producer, who we’ll call Jane. Jane explained to me that Today’s Family is an educational magazine show, blah blah blah. They are doing a show about best online resources for busy moms, blah blah blah. Research says moms don’t have enough time, blah blah blah. Moms can’t even takes baths, they’re so busy, blah blah blah. SHE WOULDN’T SHUT UP.
I was desperate for my chance to charm her. You’ve heard about my charm, right? It’s legendary. Among dozens.
It was my turn to speak. Whee! I started to spew about the need for structural governmental changes to make life for families better… blah blah blah (in full-on charming sell mode, of course).
I could see Jane nodding into her phone headset as she went on, again, about all those poor busy moms who can’t even take a bath. I was writing the segment for her, I thought. Victory!
Jane explained that she was the associate producer and that she wanted to schedule a follow-up conference call with the Producer for later that week. Then I would have to get the nod from the Executive Producer. Because all ideas need to be approved by the Executive Producer. (Okay. I have never had to jump through these many hoops before. Hello, Today Show, Good Morning America, 20/20.)
Yes, I understand, I lied to her. (Whatever.) Sure, I would love to discuss this with your Producer.

The final segment will be a five to seven minute-long piece that will air nationally 50 times. They have secured distribution on major! networks! It will air once on We! Women’s Entertainment Network, once on ABC Family and 48 times in local markets on the Ion channel (formerly PAX).
Are you still with me readers? Please hang in there.
Then Jane returned to her serious and verbose mode. Paperwork. Forms and questionnaires need to be filled out. (Oh, release forms. Of course.) They will take my answers to compose a script. (I’ve never heard of this type of procedure. Whatever.) There will be production checklists. (Hmm.) Then, I have final approval of the script. (Okay….)
Then there is the financial aspect, Jane started. Her company is paying for all filming costs. And, the featured guest (Alpha Mom!) has a financial responsibility, too.
I knew where she was going, but I couldn’t resist: You mean you will pay me!?!
No.
Ha, ha. This is too priceless. Financial responsibilities? How much? I finally asked.
$19,700.
They wanted to make sure I would have a financial stake in meeting deadlines, blah blah blah.
Now, I know how infomercials work. I know how product placement in TV shows work. But, paying to be a featured guest. I’ve never heard of this fugazi move. Moreover, I had already checked out the programming schedules and knew that Today’s Family and other shows by the same production company are in that oh so coveted TV spot of 6am, when Mom should be asleep, or 6:30 pm, when many Moms are making or serving dinner.
But, Jane added, you get to have all the licensing rights in perpetuity! Gee, thanks.
Then it hit me. All along Jane had been insulting my intelligence (she knew good and well that we do TV Production at Alpha Mom) by not being upfront and by being coy. Her verbal diarrhea wasted 45 minutes of my time, plus the time of my publicist.
Oh, Jane. You are not getting off easy.
You know, Jane, why would I do this? I have been on blah blah blah national news shows.
She tried: Well, you can’t compose questions for Meredith to ask you. I know Meredith. The Today Show follows certain journalistic standards… um … not that we don’t have journalistic integrity… um… it’s just different. This is a collaborative effort. This is a high-quality educational production!
Foot, meet mouth. Hahahahahaha.
This reminds me of another thing that bothers me. Speakers at industry conferences. I was asked if I was would be interested in speaking at a mom-based industry conference. In the same breath Alpha Mom was asked to be a sponsor. It was clear that almost all of the other speakers were conference sponsors. It has been months since that invitation and I have gone on to notice that at most conference (not all, like Blogher for example) the Pay-to-Play is standard procedure. At first, this really pissed me off. But ultimately I would have accepted the speaking engagement if it were in the Alpha Mom budget. I don’t see any difference between this example and the Today’s Family one, except that the latter would not be an obvious one to the consumer.
What a scam.

About the author

Isabel Kallman

http://www.alphamom.com
Isabel Kallman is the founding mom of Alphamom.com.

Feel free to send nice emails to isabel[at]alphamom[dot]com.


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3 Responses to “Smoke in Mirrors”

  1. Crazy Mother Oct 18 at 7:51 pm Reply Reply

    Good for you!! I’m sick of stupid companies thinking moms are idiots. We’re a little tired, but that doesn’t mean we’ll fall for silly ploys.

  2. jonniker Oct 18 at 10:37 pm Reply Reply

    This is very common, alas. If you ever get a show calling you that features Leonard Nimoy or another has-been (Sally Struthers comes to mind), you *know* it’s a pay for play — essentially a VNR that you pay for, but with even less credibility, a s if such a thing were possible.
    As a publicist, I’ve been pitched by Today’s Family, along with about 100 other similar segments. I’ve honestly yet to see one on the air — if they only run on tier two stations, my guess is that they’re playing between 2 and 6 a.m., and are clearly labeled as infomercials to the average consumer.
    What’s disturbing is that they are clearly making money, because they’ve been in business for *ages*. Someone’s paying them, and I feel bad for them, but mostly, I think they need to hire a new publicist.

  3. Belinda Oct 24 at 1:17 am Reply Reply

    Dude, I will compliment you daily on every blog I contribute to, for a year, for HALF that price.
    Make the check out to “cash.”

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