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When MSNBC posted an Incredible Hulk, "Green Machine" quiz, it was part of a publicity campaign for Universal Studio's new movie. However, there was no disclosure by MSNBC that they were helping promote their parent company's product. At the same time that they were helping flog the Hulk,"Green Machine," MSNBC was also marketing yet another "Green Machine"-- their own, so-called, news gathering vehicle. Note: Even the slogan emblazoned on the MSNBC "green machine" car states, "green is universal." Is this coincidence or another nod to Universal Studios?

MSNBC and Fox News election coverage has gone green – did anyone notice? (hat tip: Media Bistro). News reports have been coming in from the two networks’ “ecologically friendly newsgathering vehicles.”  Fox News’ dubbed theirs the “Election Link” vehicle. One assumes MSNBC’s more whimsical name, “Green Machine,” refers to the green movement – right?

Maybe not. MSNBC’s Green Machine, a Ford Escape, was launched on the Nightly News, April 22, 2008. NBC parent company of MSNBC,  had already “debuted” the “mean green streaming machine” aka the new Ford Escape, with cross-marketing on its Today show, the day before, April 21st. Three weeks later, Universal Studios (aka NBC) released its feature film “The Incredible Hulk,” also marketed as “the Green Machine,” on June 13th, 2008.

By June 15, MSNBC News website published a “quiz” titled, “Hulk out! Take our green machine quiz. How much do you know about the Incredible Hulk?” The problem? There was no disclosure that MSNBC and Universal, the maker of the Green Machine, are both properties of NBC Universal Inc. Note: Even the news vehicle slogan is “green is universal.” Another coincidence or just shrewd marketing? You choose.

So that fun quiz you took on the MSNBC News site, depending on how you look at it, is either an advertisement in disguise or a promotion of the movie masked as editorial content. Such options leave little room for optimism.

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News anchors already sit behind desks with coffee cups emblazoned with McDonald’s logos (with fake ice), as we reported earlier. Has the evening news, once so valued, become just a co-branding and cross-promotional opportunity?

The value of these “newsgathering vehicles” amounts to little more than a publicity stunt with the added bonus media giants love–  a hidden product placement opportunity. Do I need to see a reporter strapped into the front seat of an eco-car (it’s a Ford Escape in case you want one for yourself ) driving down the road and telling me the latest non-news of the election?

When the election is over, MSNBC should suggest a content sharing deal with Fox: a demolition derby between their Green Machine and Fox News’ Election Link Vehicle. It should be a no-holds-barred grudge match to rival a monster truck rallies. Whichever vehicle manages to limp off the dusty arena floor will be the winner. However, if no vehicle survives, the winners will be America’s TV viewing audience.

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The “Green Machine”

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