If you're one of the many Americans who watches the Dr. Phil show, you might be getting a startup advertisement without realizing it. "Doctor" Phil McGraw's son—who is also not a medical doctor—is the co-creator of a new app called Doctor on Demand, which is suddenly getting a boatload of free, conflicted press.
In addition to pumping his son's app before an adoring audience, Dr. Phil is also an investor in the company, which lets people videochat with doctors—$40 for 15 minutes. The Wall Street Journal's Katie Rosman points out the nepotistic promotional arrangement, which is very easy to miss:
Viewers would have needed to watch and listen intently to understand Dr. Phil's connection to the company. Dr. Phil mentioned his interest in the product in passing. At the end of the show, a text disclaimer cited Dr. Phil's investment: "Doctor on Demand was created by Doctor on Demand Inc., which is owned in part by Dr. Phillip C. McGraw." A spokeswoman for Doctor on Demand says this disclosure complies with Federal Communications Commission rules and will run at the end of the program, anytime Dr. Phil features the app.
The product plug was integrated into a segment of the program, which is syndicated in more than 180 markets nationwide.
If you watch the clip above, you'll see Dr. Phil not only stay mum on the fact that the app is his son's work, but actively discourage viewers from visiting an actual doctor. Doctor on Demand shares prominent investors alongside Papa McGraw—Andreessen Horowitz was part of a $3 million funding round. But Marc Andreessen, for all his shiny-domed splendor, can't command national audiences, or sneak into your living room like a TV star. Dr. Phil's success has come from years of broadcasting a heavy dose of pop-schlock psychology and friendly southern drawl. Now his baby's startup is just another part of the prescription.