If you’ve found yourself particularly stirred to social action after sitting through the latest episode of your favorite television drama, you may have the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to thank. Having tackled malaria, homelessness and everything in between, the Foundation is hoping that it can use prime time TV staples to raise awareness and move American audiences to help out in its global philanthropic mission.
Taking traditional product placement a step further, the Foundation has been working behind the scenes to influence public attitudes by inserting important themes into the storylines of television shows like “Private Practice” and “Law and Order: SVU.” According to The New York Times, money from the Gates foundation funded script development for an “ER” episode in which George Clooney, reprising his role as Dr. Doug Ross, advocated for organ donation.
Gates, once again the world’s richest man, met last week with representatives from Viacom, the parent company of MTV, VH1 and BET, to discuss the new “message placement” paradigm. A new partnership between the Foundation and the media giant, dubbed “Get Schooled,” will bring philanthropy experts and programming executives together to develop storylines and new shows that center on education. As the relationship develops, the Gates Foundation plans to provide funding for production of shows that support their philanthropic vision.