Bill Gates and his wife Melinda have spent years dedicating their energy and/or Microsoft billions to good causes. Their latest recipients? Some of your favorite TV shows. According to a story in today’s New York Times, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the giant health-and-education-focused charity that also receives backing from do-gooding tycoon Warren Buffett, has worked with series like ER (specifically, the episode featuring George Clooney’s return, pictured), Law & Order SVU, and Private Practice to insert messages involving disease prevention, surgical safety, and other noble causes.
Now the Gates Foundation is set to expand its involvement through a new deal with Viacom (the parent company of MTV, VH1, Nickelodeon, and BET) with message placements much like the embedded promos for Coca-Cola, Victoria’s Secret, and other commercial products that EW noted last year with considerably less enthusiasm. The difference here, however, is that the mode and the means are far more altruistic: to promote education, safety, and health.
It’s hard to argue with the intent, but are you a little disturbed by the idea that mental vitamins will be snuck into your TV junk food? Could it turn the shows we love into dreary public service announcements? Or should we trust Bill Gates, a guy with a brain as giant as an old mainframe computer, not to let us down with preachy, oversimplified messages?