MEDIA: Media Watch - Is program clean-up a PR ploy or the real McCoy?

Earlier this month, 11 of the nation’s largest TV advertisers banded together as the Family Friendly Programming Forum. It launched an initiative to fund script development of ’wholesome and engaging’ programs for the WB network. Collectively, AT&T, Ameritech, General Motors, IBM, Johnson & Johnson, Nationwide Insurance, Pfizer, Procter & Gamble, Sears, Warner-Lambert and Wendy’s were reported to have donated nearly dollars 1 million toward this effort.

Earlier this month, 11 of the nation’s largest TV advertisers banded together as the Family Friendly Programming Forum. It launched an initiative to fund script development of ’wholesome and engaging’ programs for the WB network. Collectively, AT&T, Ameritech, General Motors, IBM, Johnson & Johnson, Nationwide Insurance, Pfizer, Procter & Gamble, Sears, Warner-Lambert and Wendy’s were reported to have donated nearly dollars 1 million toward this effort.

Earlier this month, 11 of the nation’s largest TV advertisers

banded together as the Family Friendly Programming Forum. It launched an

initiative to fund script development of ’wholesome and engaging’

programs for the WB network. Collectively, AT&T, Ameritech, General

Motors, IBM, Johnson & Johnson, Nationwide Insurance, Pfizer, Procter &

Gamble, Sears, Warner-Lambert and Wendy’s were reported to have donated

nearly dollars 1 million toward this effort.



Although taking steps to improve the quality of TV would seem like a

noble and laudable idea, CARMA’s examination of the media’s coverage

revealed several obstacles for the advertisers to address.



Advertisers often expressed concerns over the increasing amount of sex

and violence on network TV today. These concerns have turned to

discomfort for advertisers, prompting a need for family-friendly

programming. ’We’re asking that in general the shows be ones that it

would be reasonable to assume a multi-generational household unit could

get together and watch without embarrassment,’ explained Robert Wehling

of Procter & Gamble (The Wall Street Journal, August 11).



Somewhat surprisingly, media coverage of the programming announcement

did not focus most often on what prompted the initiative nor its

consequences, but rather with whom the advertisers made their pact

Although there was mixed reaction to the benefits that will be gained,

there seemed to be a consensus that the WB network was an odd partner

for the advertisers to choose in their efforts to promote family

values.



WB was often portrayed as ’a network built on teens and sex’ (San

Francisco Examiner, August 12), championing the exact type of programs,

such as Dawson’s Creek and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, that the

advertisers were trying to counter. Advertisers responded that they

approached all the networks, but only the WB came up with good

ideas.



Despite advertisers’ statements that they were not advocating censorship

nor trying to place their products, the media voiced fears that the move

could lead toward advertisers influencing the content of the programs

that they fund. ’Will GM have the power to veto a dramatic story

attacking negligence in the automotive industry?’ wondered the San Diego

Union-Tribune (August 17).



Several publications applauded the advertisers for their initiative and

for putting their money where their mouths are. The Atlanta

Journal-Constitution (August 13) wrote, ’bless their hearts and

souls ... It’s a wonderfully responsible, adult thing to do.’



But an equal number of reports questioned the true intentions of the

advertisers. These reports questioned the relatively small amount of

money donated and noted that most of these advertisers had been

criticized by watchdog groups. ’This appears to be more of a public

relations ploy (to take the heat of pressure groups off both the WB and

advertisers) than a genuine effort’ (Salt Lake City Desert News, August

17).



Will this new advertising strategy create one big, happy family?

Advertisers could win support if they follow through on their claim that

Big Brother won’t be part of it.



- Evaluation and analysis by CARMA International. Media Watch can be

found at www. carma.com.



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