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Want to generate millions of free media impressions for the cost of a small spot TV buy? Try running an ad for a product that's not supposed to be on TV in the first place.

SPINdex can only imagine the media-savvy team at House of Seagram crunching the numbers when they placed a flight for Crown Royal whiskey on NBC's Corpus Christi, Texas, affiliate KRIS-TV. Let's see, we spend about $20,000 for a rotation of 30-second spots and we generate how much in free media exposure?

The actual cost per thousand is probably incalculable, but SPINdex's sample of media outlets alone generated 13 network newscasts totaling 6.5 minutes of national TV time and 10 articles with 5,738 words of copy in major metropolitan dailies.

That was more than enough to rank as the biggest media story of any marketing event in the past couple of weeks.

The only thing SPINdex could imagine causing more of a media uproar would be if someone aired spots depicting child pornography. Well, sure, Calvin Klein already did that, but it proves SPINdex's point exactly. Brashly promote a socially controversial product or theme on public airwaves and the media elite will bestow more free impressions on your brand than your marketing budget could ever hope to buy.

With a SPINdex score of 369, the Crown Royal spot dominated the marketing industry's share of media coverage for two weeks leading up to this week's column.

Using Medialink PR Research's proprietary method for valuing editorial coverage in a panel of influential media outlets, SPINdex assigns an index value to the ability of an event to generate mass societal spin. The scores reflect both the number of stories and how dominantly each was played.

By comparison, the next biggest story of the week, the merchandising of NBA MVP Michael Jordan, earned a score of only 262 points, including two network newscasts, 18 daily newspaper articles, three wire stories and four newsweekly pieces. Stories about Mr. Jordan's new fragrance line alone generated a score of 81, including a network newscast and four newspaper articles.

Sony's launch of a line of personal computers attracted 11 newspaper and two newsweekly articles, earning it third place for the week with a SPINdex score of 170.

The Coca-Cola-sponsored Olympic Torch relay spun its way through the New York media market last week and picked up eight major daily pieces and a SPINdex score of 120.

Ironically, another Seagram Co. product-its MCA unit's "Jurassic Park"-ranked last for the week. News of the entertainment marketer's partnership with Mercedes-Benz got no media coverage. Next time, they should try placing a bottle of whiskey on the dashboard.M

Joe Mandese is senior VP of Myers Reports. Mark Weiner is VP of Medialink PR Research.

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