With Condoms in Particular, Local Stations Can Say No
By ANDREW ADAM NEWMAN
Published: July 16, 2007
BANNED in Pittsburgh?
Controversy over a new advertising campaign by Trojan, the condom maker, has trickled down to the local level, with television stations in Pittsburgh roundly refusing to show it, and stations in Seattle giving it the green light.
When Trojan introduced the condom commercial last month, it was rejected as national advertising by both CBS and Fox. Fox said it objected to the message that condoms can prevent pregnancy, while CBS said it was not ï¿½??appropriate,ï¿½?? drawing a firestorm of criticism from public health advocates and bloggers.
But Trojan, which is owned by Church & Dwight, was in for more unhappy surprises last week. Local affiliates in Pittsburgh for ABC and NBC, two networks that had agreed to run the ad nationally, also snubbed it.
The odd effect of these decisions will be that viewers in the Pittsburgh area will be able to see the commercials during national advertising slots on ABC or NBC ï¿½?? if with less frequency. Stations sell their own commercial slots as well, to local and national advertisers, and the ads are subject to local review even if they pass muster with networks.
Jim Daniels, vice president for marketing at Trojan, said that his company had chosen Pittsburgh and Seattle as test markets to measure whether a higher frequency of ads would increase sales.
In the commercial, women in a bar are find themselves sitting next to pigs, one of which metamorphoses into a handsome suitor after it procures a condom from a vending machine. The tag line: ï¿½??Evolve. Use a condom every time.ï¿½??
ï¿½??The spot was pretty clever, but not one that we thought was appropriate for the market,ï¿½?? said Ray Carter, general manager of WPXI, the NBC affiliate in Pittsburgh.
As for NBC accepting the ad, which will still be broadcast on the national slots on his station, Mr. Carter said: ï¿½??Iï¿½??m not employed by NBC. Weï¿½??re owned by Cox Television. In this situation, whether the network would accept the ad has little bearing on us.ï¿½??
The Pittsburgh ABC affiliate, WTAE, also broke with its network in rejecting the ad. Rick Henry, the general manager, did not respond to a message seeking comment, but in a written response to Trojan, the station said, ï¿½??WTAE will not accept or air advertising for Trojan or any other advertiser in the category.ï¿½??
The CBS affiliate in Pittsburgh, KDKA, rejected the spot as well, echoing the decision of the national network. Trojan did not try to place the ad with the local Fox affiliate.
Seattle, by contrast, put out the welcome mat for the company: every station it approached, even affiliates for the two networks that rejected the ad ï¿½?? CBS and Fox ï¿½?? agreed to broadcast it.
Mr. Daniels of Trojan said he saw hypocrisy in networks accepting ads for products aimed at conditions like erectile dysfunction and herpes, but rejecting condom ads. ï¿½??One of my hopes is that we see the networksï¿½?? standards evolve to be more practical and fair,ï¿½?? he said.
As for the small public groundswell in favor of the Evolve campaign, Mr. Daniels said, ï¿½??There is a lot of support for the commercial and the general sense of advocating comprehensive sex education.ï¿½??
According to a 2001 survey by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, 71 percent of Americans believe that condom advertising should be allowed on television, more than those who approve of televised ads for beer (64 percent) or hard liquor (51 percent).
Comcast, the cable provider for both Pittsburgh and Seattle, would not allow Trojan to purchase local ads for Adult Swim, the nighttime programming on the Cartoon Network, in either market, deeming it inappropriate for children who might stay tuned at night. Adult Swim did accept national advertising, however, so the ads will appear in those same slots in Seattle and Pittsburgh.
Although Comcast did agree to sell spots to Trojan in both cities for other cable networks, including MTV and Comedy Central, Mr. Daniels said the company might abandon Pittsburgh as a test market because of the rebuffs.
Still, the best publicity for Trojan may be what it is getting free. The adï¿½??s rejection by CBS and Fox was discussed on many blogs, with the Huffington Post, for example, chiding the networks in four posts. The commercial has been viewed nearly 100,000 times on YouTube, while trojanevolve.com has drawn more than 400,000 unique visitors since June 18.
On ï¿½??The Oï¿½??Reilly Factorï¿½?? on Fox, Bill Oï¿½??Reilly argued the ad was inappropriate to show on television ï¿½?? after he broadcast the ad nearly in its entirety. Stephen Colbert also did a segment about the campaign on ï¿½??The Colbert Reportï¿½?? on Comedy Central.
The Planned Parenthood Federation of America urged supporters to send complaints to Leslie Moonves, the chief executive of CBS, and Peter Liguori, now the chairman of entertainment for Fox. More than 44,000 people sent e-mail messages, the group said.
ï¿½??Next year, itï¿½??s estimated that four million people in this country will get a sexually transmitted infection,ï¿½?? said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood, in a telephone interview. ï¿½??The fact that Fox and CBS want to sell sex on TV and yet they donï¿½??t want to run ads about prevention is disgraceful.ï¿½??
Dan Savage, who writes the syndicated sex column ï¿½??Savage Loveï¿½?? and blogged about the Trojan situation, said in an interview from Seattle: ï¿½??Iï¿½??m offended by the reality that television is so hypersexualized and glorifies sexual excess and promiscuity, and then runs screaming into the megachurch and drops to its knees when someone wants to run an advertisement that urges people to be responsible about their sexual expression.ï¿½??
On July 9, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation conducted a protest at CBS production headquarters in Los Angeles. Evoking the commercial, two live pigs at the event were identified on their cage as ï¿½??Rupertï¿½?? and ï¿½??Sumner,ï¿½?? after Rupert Murdoch, chairman of the News Corporation, which owns Fox, and Sumner M. Redstone, the chairman of CBS.
ï¿½??These networks are celebrating a free sexual lifestyle in their programming, but refusing to talk about it in their advertising,ï¿½?? said Michael Weinstein, the president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. ï¿½??The big problem in this country is weï¿½??re hedonistic in our behavior and moralistic in our attitudes. We donï¿½??t have an open discussion about our sexuality, and the price of not being open is millions of sexually transmitted infections.ï¿½??
Correction: July 18, 2007
Because of an editing error, the Advertising column in Business Day on Monday, about a controversy over an ad campaign by the condom maker Trojan, referred imprecisely to its ownership. Although the private equity firm Kelso & Company joined Church & Dwight in purchasing Trojanï¿½??s parent company in 2001, the Trojan brand is now owned solely by Church & Dwight.