On a day when Barack Obama was struggling to push through a stimulus bill in Congress, journalists on Friday's "Today" show decided to fawn over the branding of the new President, even referring to the Commander in Chief as the "messiah of Madison Avenue." NBC correspondent Jamie Gangel highlighted a batch of new Obama merchandise and enthused, "And the whole world is apparently going Obama."
Speaking of the various products and worldwide commercials featuring the first family, Gangel raved, "Everyone wants to be like Barack. He's being called the messiah of Madison Avenue." As video of the Obama children appeared onscreen, the reporter continued, "They're the 'It girls.' Together, welcome brand Obama." After discussing the new brand of Obama-flavored ice cream ("Yes Pecan") and Michelle Obama-inspired fashion, Gangel extolled, "America has embraced the Obama family and a new sense of chic."
The segment also featured sound bites from Esquire magazine's John Ridley. He continued the gushing by proclaiming, "Barack Obama is young. He's good looking. He's got a message of hope that transcends most racial and ethnic divides, and he's Madison Avenue's ideal pitch man. He's perfect."
Gangel did acknowledge that it had been a "miserable week" for the President. But most of the piece was given over to marveling at the new Obama-related products.
[Thanks to MRC intern Mike Sargent for finding and transcribing the segment.]
A transcript of the February 6 segment, which aired at 8:36am, follows.
MATT LAUER: From cabinet appointments to the stimulus package, it's been a very tough political start to Barack Obama's presidency. But he has found unprecedented success in other areas. "Today's" national correspondent Jamie Gangel explains that. Jamie, good morning to you.
JAMIE GANGEL: Good morning, Matt. By all accounts, this has been miserable week for Barack Obama. The charm offensive is gone. But in the midst of it all, there is good news in one place. Madison Avenue is apparently mad for the Obamas. Everyone wants to be like Barack. He's being called the messiah of Madison Avenue. They're the "It girls." Together, welcome brand Obama.
JOHN RIDLEY (Esquire Magazine): Barack Obama is young. He's good looking. He's got a message of hope that transcends most racial and ethnic divides, and he's Madison Avenue's ideal pitch man. He's perfect.
GANGEL: So perfect, whether you're selling cars, couches or coffee, everyone is jumping on the bandwagon.
DANNY DEUTSCH (DEUTSCH, INC.) Madison Avenue holds up a mirror to who we are, and you know, really smart advertising tries to glom on to where the world is going.
GANGEL: And the whole world is apparently going Obama. In France, the new cognac is 44. In Nigeria, it's mattresses.
OBAMA LOOK-ALIKE: All right.
GANGEL: In the Philippines, antacid. For the record, that is a look-alike who no doubt will be in high demand.
DEUTSCH: Who doesn't want to be associated with him, wherever you are on this planet?
GANGEL: Blackberry couldn't be happier. They don't even have to pay for advertising.
LAUER: The Blackberry, all right? You got to keep it.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: I did.
LAUER: Can I see it? Do you have it?
OBAMA: It's like Inspector Gadget. If you touch it, it might blow up.
GANGEL: And in fairness, some branding is a true compliment. Any President would be honored to inspire this.
SCHOOL ADMINISTRATOR: Good morning, Barack Obama elementary school.
GANGEL: But if imitation is the highest form of flattery, Obama's message is getting a workout, from hope to change to that perennial favorite-
CROWD SHOUTING: Yes, we can!
GANGEL: Now immortalized as "Yes Pecan." [Ben and Jerry's ice cream flavor onscreen] And then there are the clothes. Not since you know who [Jacqueline Kennedy onscreen] has 7th Avenue been so excited. Michelle is being called a one-woman tarp for fashion.
ACCESS HOLLYWOOD HOST: And here they are, the first family on inauguration day.
GANGEL: The knock-offs, look-alikes, and the runway of Access Hollywood.
ACCESS HOLLYWOOD HOST: Oh, can a family look any better?
GANGEL: America has embraced the Obama family and a new sense of chic.
RIDLEY: What Michelle and the girls have done in terms of just brand identity in a short amount of time has been absolutely amazing. It's about being realistic with people's money. Hey, you know, times are tough, but we can go out and get J. Crew. We can go out and get Gap kind of clothing. That's a big plus for the Obama image.
GANGEL: For the most part, the Obamas appear to be taking it all in stride.
LAUER: Not only did you just become president, but you have achieved a certain rock star status outside of that.
OBAMA: Outside of my house.
GANGEL: But in the end, will all this lead to the scariest word in advertising, overexposure? Perhaps. But for the moment, Obama mania is still growing, and any president who can sell this-
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: The Chia Obama handmade decorative planter.
GANGEL: -Can sell anything. Well, Matt, let's say almost anything. He still has to sell his economic stimulus package. If he doesn't, Madison Avenue is notoriously fickle. Brand Obama may have had its 15 minutes or he could ask Miss Piggy for some advice. Matt.
LAUER: We could do that for him in just a couple of minutes. Jamie Gangel, Jamie, thanks very much.