The daytime TV commercial that brought down a mob boss

Ad execs are cheering TV's pervasive reach after a PSA that ran during The View led to the arrest of James "Whitey" Bulger — the focus of a 16-year manhunt

A photo of Boston mobster Whitey Bulger's girlfriend aired in a commercial during daytime TV and ended the FBI's 16-year manhunt for the felon.
(Image credit: YouTube)

The video: On Wednesday, the FBI found and arrested infamous Boston mobster James "Whitey" Bulger, after a 16-year manhunt. (How infamous? Jack Nicholson played a character based on Bulger — a suspect in 19 murders — in The Departed). But some have another reason to celebrate the nabbing of Bulger, one of the FBI's 10 Most Wanted: It proves that "TV advertising still works." The capture owes its success to an ad campaign that aired earlier this week in 14 cities during daytime shows like Ellen, The View, and Live with Regis and Kelly. The commercial (watch it below) spotlighted Bulger's longtime girlfriend, Catherine Greig, urging anyone who'd seen her to contact authorities. One tipster alerted the police, and just days later, both Greig and Bolger were in custody. The near-immediate success has the advertising world buzzing. "They spent $50K on media and saved millions of dollars in man hours and resources to solve their business problem," says Harry Chapin, president of Boston ad agency Forge Worldwide. "Perhaps the greatest return on investment of all time."

The reaction: Long live television, says Lisa van der Pool at Boston Business Journal. This "validates the fact that TV is still the most powerful ad medium," despite talk of its dwindling significance with the "rise of media fragmentation and the internet." After "high-profile media types" like Rachel Maddow and Bill O'Reilly sarcastically mocked the campaign on their respective shows, it's the FBI that gets the "last laugh," says Tom Shoop at Government Executive. Next time, O'Reilly "might want to wait until the game is over to do [his] Monday-morning quarterbacking." See the commercial:

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