Fox 45's McDonald's 'gaffe' fits a pattern of product placement

Last week, when Fox 45 weather reporter Candace Dold tossed to "Traffic Jam Jimmy" for an update during the morning newscast, she seemed to catch the traffic reporter off-guard, as he was pulling into the drive-thru lane at McDonald's.

"Is it too early to get a fish sandwich?" he asked out the window before turning to the camera. "Oh, Candace, are we live? Whoops. Hey, I've been in the car since 4 o'clock, I am starving. I'm just getting something real quick."

It turns out it was too early for a fish sandwich, so Jimmy ordered an Egg McMuffin and a black coffee and paid $4.46, all on camera, before returning to a laughing Dold. (See the full video below.)

The clip went massively viral, getting more than a million views on YouTube, reaching CNNPeople magazine, eonline, Business Insider, and newspapers around the world.

But many, including AdWeek, noticed the bright red McDonalds pillow in Jimmy's backseat and wondered if the supposed "gaffe" was a paid promotion designed to go viral. 

An anonymous source within Fox 45 could not confirm whether the McDonald's incident was planned but says that management routinely has paid product placements on newscasts, including the Dunkin' Donuts mug that is prominently displayed on the anchors' desk. The source also says Jimmy Uhrin works with the sales department editing commercials after his gig as "Traffic Jam Jimmy."

Station manager Bill Fanshawe insists, "The shot was spontaneous, he was on the road since 4 a.m. in weather coverage. My understanding is that he was hungry."

As for Uhrin's role at the station, Fanshawe says, "He used to be in the production department. He works as a traffic reporter the last couple of years and helps news with production of special events."

Fanshawe acknowledges that "McDonald's is an advertiser and does do sponsorships with us" but "His visit to McDonald's wasn't related or tied to a sale."

Fanshawe did not respond to questions about whether the station generally has product placements in its broadcasts or whether such placements are reported to the FCC as required by law. 

As the Sun's Justin Fenton pointed out on Twitter, it's not the first time Traffic Jam Jimmy has injected McDonald's into his segments.

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