Microsoft's TV product placement horror: CNN mistakes Surface tabs for iPAD stands

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Last month Microsoft announced a partnership with CNN for its mid-term election night coverage, with Redmond providing tech for the news anchors to use.

Unfortunately, the anchors used their shiny Surface tablet to prop up or hide their Apple iPads.

The Surface units spent the night being prominently propped up on the main CNN news desk as the election results came in. But viewers at home soon spotted that the Surfaces were in fact hiding technology from Microsoft's chief enemy in the tablet wars, as presenters appeared to prefer their iPads.

It's not the first time Microsoft's product placement team has faced this problem. Redmond signed a reputed $400m deal with the US National Football League to make the Surface the official tablet of the NFL.

Coaches and players were all seen using their Surface fondsleslabs on the sidelines, but unfortunately the message hadn't got through to TV commentators, who continually referred to the devices as "iPads," or "iPad-like devices." The problem was fixed with some coaching of presenters, but Apple still got a shedload of free publicity.

Then there was the unintentionally hilarious "Bing it" Hawaii Five-0 placement.

Going further back, in 2012 Microsoft's Surface team scored a major coup when media mogul Oprah Winfrey named the tablet as one of her "favorite things" of the year – a pronouncement that usually encourages her millions of viewers to run to the shops to stock up.

"The Surface, Microsoft's first tablet, feels like a Mercedes-Benz to me, people!" she gushed.

"The full-size keyboard built right into the cover makes work easy, the very smart kickstand makes watching a movie or Skyping a friend a delight, the less than a pound-and-a-half weight makes a great alternative to a laptop, and the many other features make it fun for work and play. Now, that's a wowser!"

She also took to Twitter to extol the virtues of the Surface, saying that she'd bought 12 of the units to give away at Christmas. Unfortunately, the tweet showed that the missive had been sent from an iOS Twitter app.

Apple itself is a dab hand at product placement. The firm supplied kit for such shows as House of Cards, 30 Rock, and even built an entire episode of Sex and the City about Carrie Bradshaw getting her beloved Apple fixed. Maybe Microsoft should do some headhunting. ®

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