shows most avoided by advertisers
By Kevin Downey
a certain amount of gratuitous sex and violence to make advertisers
And Vince McMahon seems
to have the formula down pat. If his Xtreme Football League, which
premieres this weekend, proves to be anything like his WWF wrestling
franchise, the guy may very well lay claim to the two shows most often
avoided by advertisers.
Already his "WWF Smackdown" on UPN tops the
dirty dozen, a list of shows that media buyers told Media Life are the
least appropriate for their clients.
But thatís not to say
McMahon doesnít have challengers.
New shows like Foxís
"Temptation Island" and MTVís "Jackass" join the
list of standbys like "Jerry Springer" and Howard Sternís two
shows that made the dirty dozen last year.
The shows regularly
elicit the ire of groups promoting quality television like the Parents
Television Council, which is now targeting "Temptation Island"
for its premise of staged infidelity.
But they are also
the shows that advertisers avoid because they could potentially tarnish
their brand image.
important, the dirty dozen are also most likely to anger consumers. And
angry consumers send letters of complaint to CEOs and generate bad press,
both of which have a way of trickling down to media buyers in something
akin to a cease-and-desist order.
remarkable how much influence a letter writer can have on marketing
decisions. One letter to the right person can lead to a note saying, Ďtake
care of this problem,í" says a media buyer in the Midwest.
because clients are in such highly competitive environments. If you anger
enough customers, it could make a difference."
One media research
director says: "Itís the silent majority who think these shows are
no big deal but certain advertisers are very skittish about getting
Family Association claims to have 500,000 members and they threaten
boycotts. And CEOs and boards of directors quake in fear."
Letters of complaint, for the
most part, start with a well-orchestrated campaign.
The PTC, which claims to
have 600,000 members, has actively campaigned against "Temptation
Already Sears, Quaker
Oats, and Best Buy have stopped advertising.
however, never intended to be on the show, according to a spokesperson for
Fox. The spot was a make-good, which means the network gave Sears
commercial time to make up for an audience shortfall on a previous spot.
A spokesperson for Best
Buy says they advertised on the reality show in a make-good situation as
But the PTC says
they have successfully campaigned against "Smackdown" and Howard
Stern in the past.
have seemingly been successful more recently. The website Stopdrlaura.com,
for example, asked advertisers to pull out of "Dr. Laura."
talk show, also on the list, has indeed lost advertisers, which may have
more to do with the showís poor ratings.
is now getting a good deal of attention too. Thatís because a teenager
lit himself on fire in an attempt to duplicate a stunt he saw on the show.
presidential nominee and Connecticut senator Joe Lieberman has asked MTV
to tone the show down and air it at a time when teenagers arenít likely
media buyers, however, do not simply wait for controversy or complaints to
often screen shows for content in order to prevent any problems. And they
often take their cue from big advertisers like Procter & Gamble, which
regularly monitor programs.
donít want to get letters from consumers," says Roy Rothstein, vice
president and director of national broadcast research at Zenith Media.
"We try to avoid anything that will create confrontation so weíre
cognizant of whatís going on and get enough advance notice."
looking to develop inoffensive shows on which to advertise have created
their own group, the Family Friendly Programming Forum.
co-chaired by P&G and Johnson & Johnson, is involved in script
development and was behind the creation of The WBís "Gilmore
Girls" and is developing other shows with other networks.
nutshell, weíre trying to bring families together and not drive them
apart," says a spokesperson for P&G. "The way you do that is
by creating programming."
The flipside to
the dirty dozen is that there are generally plenty of advertisers willing
to put their ad dollars into shows with controversial content.
Part of the reason
for that is because these shows often attract young viewers who are otherwise tough
to find. And advertisers, like movie companies for example, specifically
target the demo.
Moreover, programs like
"Jerry Springer" are priced down because of advertiser
hesitation and lure those in search of some inexpensive eyeballs.
Working in the
favor of media buyers, too, is the fact that commercial inventory has been
expanding with the growing number of new networks.
Dan Rank, managing
partner of national broadcast at OMD, says simply: "Some advertisers
want to avoid controversial content. But you donít need to run in
"If you donít
want to be in ĎJackass,í for example, MTV wonít make you go
in," says another media buyer.
"If you want
to cherry pick their best shows, it will cost you. But if you want to
avoid specific shows, theyíll let you."
-Kevin Downey is a
staff writer for Media Life.
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