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
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
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
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.