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Clinton Video Is a Case of Product Misplacement


President Clinton wasn't exactly having a Coke and a smile during his videotaped grand jury testimony, broadcast to millions of Americans this week. But he was seen occasionally quaffing what appears to have been Diet Coke and Canada Dry soft drinks during the four-hour-plus grilling.

The unplanned product placement was one of several--including Gap (the stained dress) and Starbucks (where Monica Lewinsky bought a "Santa Monica" mug for Clinton)--that have been linked with the Lewinsky scandal. These companies have joined a host of others that would have preferred not to have been associated with infamous events.

Marketers for Coca-Cola and Canada Dry might find some sympathy among brand managers of the following products:

* Twinkies: The controversial "Twinkie defense" was used by Dan White's lawyer in defending him for the 1978 murders of San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk. The argument that White's capacity was diminished by depression and junk food resulted in a reduced sentence for White and rioting in San Francisco.

* Kool-Aid: This powdered drink was associated in 1978 with the cyanide deaths of hundreds of followers of Jim Jones, founder of the Guyana-based People's Temple religious sect.

* Ryder rental trucks: One was used by Timothy McVeigh to convey the explosives that killed 168 people in the Oklahoma City bombing. The rental records helped finger McVeigh.

* Ford Bronco, Bruno Magli shoes, Ben & Jerry's ice cream: All figured prominently in the O.J. Simpson murder trial. Even as Ford headquarters tried to distance the Bronco--featured in the slow-speed police chase that preceded Simpson's arrest--from the sordid event, a number of Ford dealers looked to cash in. A dealer in Georgia reportedly placed one on his lot bearing a sign reading, "As Seen on TV."

* Nike: The shoes uniformly poked out under purple shrouds, covering the victims in the Heaven's Gate suicides. Just do it, indeed.

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