NEW YORK: The message at struggling US network NBC Universal is loud and clear: its new top creative executive is the most sympathetic yet to advertisers' needs - especially product placement.

In view of the network's current ratings dive, the appointment of Ben Silverman (pictured above) was not unexpected, nor that of his equally new co-chairman, NBC's former West coast president Marc Graboff (51).

Silverman (36) is an evangelist for the deep embedding of products into storylines. And, lest the message be lost on advertisers, NBCU ceo Jeff Zucker rammed it home: "Ben is the most ad-friendly executive working in television," he said.

The enthusiasm on Madison Avenue for Silverman's appointment could be compared to that engendered by winning Procter & Gamble's exclusive all-brands global account for a thirty-year term.

Hallelujahed Starcom USA svp Laura Caraccioli-Davis: "Ben understands the needs and wants of advertisers in a way many other television executives don't."

While DraftFCB vice-chairman Bill Cella saluted Silverman as "someone who looks at content in terms of how saleable it is".

But though enthusiasm reigns on Madison Avenue, Hollywood's inner circle of producers and writers are not reluctant to express their distaste at Silverman's intertwining of plot and product placement.

Top producers such as Steven Bochco and Aaron Sorkin - both vehement anti-intrusion critics - cite such shows as Silverman's 2003 'reality' series The Restaurant - which blatantly integrated into its storyline everything from Coors beer to American Express cards to Mitsubishi autos.

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal Online. additional content by WARC staff