What should I be doing instead of this?
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Advertising Support?

By Rodger Pille · July 20th, 2000 · Ad Nauseam
Someone keeps putting the damned cart before the horse. People do not watch television or listen to the radio for the commercials. By and large, they don't grab newspapers and flip right to the ads. So for some self-righteous corporate suits to suddenly think we'll miss their ads on a "racy" or "envelope-pushing" program or in a "provocative" publication is nothing short of pompous.

I bring this up not merely to vent, although this topic infuriates me to no end. I'll also spend some time railing on this issue because our good friends over at Procter & Gamble are the national leaders behind this media cleansing. Maybe some of those self-righteous suits will read this and take a moment to consider what it is they're doing.

A columnist can dream, can't he?

You may have heard recently about P&G's latest holier-than-thou policy. It will pull advertising support from presumably controversial radio and television programs. The Dr. Laura Show was one of the most recent victims. MTV's Tom Green Show and Undressed were also blacklisted. This is neither new nor exclusively P&G's blunder. The Procter folks have frowned upon risqué soap operas (gasp!) for years now. You may also remember how Ellen's coming-out episode prompted Chrysler and J.C. Penney to pull their ads.

Look: No one remembers if you had commercials run during a controversial program, save for those freaky people whose speed dial is set for the public affairs departments at the Fortune 500 companies.

They are a vocal minority, to be sure. If it's the program, not the advertising, that is controversial, then you're in the clear.

But when you pull your ads and make a big stink about how much you're for family values, blah blah blah, then of course, you'll be remembered. And I don't think it's the way you want to be remembered. You're saying your ads are better than the program around them. Then you have a whole slice of the population just waiting for you to screw up so they can call you out. Welcome to America.

Worse yet, the media will pounce on you when (not if) you do. Next to "man bites dog," hypocrisy is our second favorite thing to write about.

I suppose I should be happy that the almighty dollar isn't behind every decision that corporate America makes. Or is it? On the surface, it appears P&G and other ad-pulling companies are saying their vehement principles are more important than some killer demographics. But fear of repercussion, backlash and a bad case of crummy PR, in the corporate mindset, add up to long-run profit loss.

Again, I say, all this could be diverted if companies stop getting up on their Ivory soapbox and making a big deal of it. But they do. They always do.

I also blame a certain slice of the viewing population. Suddenly everyone has exposed nerves. We look for ways to get offended. And then we call, write or e-mail someone to complain about it. If enough people bitch, then a company does something about it, i.e., pull advertising support. So what are these companies doing but backing the majority opinion? Majority = right. God forbid that our melting pot country should celebrate its diversity.

Let's go back to the term "advertising support." The truth is a commercial does not directly support a TV program. A 15-second spot does not finance the local shock-jock. A full-page ad does not directly pay for that sex column in the back of the paper. This is what I mean about putting the cart before the horse.

By tuning in or stopping by the newsstand, the viewers/ listeners/readers support the shows and publications. Advertisers pay for access to those viewers/listeners/ readers. It should have nothing to do with the content the ads surround.

Frankly, if your company chooses not to advertise during my favorite show or in my local rag, I don't care. Another ad will run in its place, and I won't miss it.

It's your loss.

AD NAUSEAM is CityBeat's monthly exploration of the wide world of advertising. If you spot a hot trend or have your shorts in a bunch over a new ad or campaign, you can write to Rodger at CityBeat, 23 E. Seventh St., Suite 617, Cincinnati, OH 45202 or e-mail him at letters@citybeat.com.


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