SBD/Issue 93/Sponsorships, Advertising & Marketing

Super Bowl Ads: CBS Defends Decision To Run Focus On The Family

 
CBS yesterday defended its decision to accept a Super Bowl ad from Christian group Focus on the Family, acknowledging that it has "changed its policy and now accepts commercials that advocate political causes," according to Meg James of the L.A. TIMES. A CBS spokesperson said the spot starring former Univ. of Florida QB Tim Tebow, which is rumored to carry a pro-life theme, was subjected to the "full standards process that all ads go through." James notes CBS now "finds itself in a difficult position," as it has previously rejected ads from "left-leaning organizations." CBS' policy shift has "galvanized a coalition of organizations, which have been urging the network to reject the Tebow ad." CBS Senior VP/Communications Dana McClintock said, "We have for some time moderated our approach to advocacy submissions after it became apparent that our stance did not reflect public sentiment or industry norms on the issue." The network added it will "continue to consider responsibly produced ads from all groups for the few remaining spots in Super Bowl XLIV." James notes the "thicket that CBS finds itself in could become increasingly common for TV networks." The net's decision to accept the Focus on the Family ad "comes as networks and TV stations have struggled for revenue amid a weak advertising market." Women's Media Center President Jehmu Greene, whose organization is spearheading the campaign urging CBS to reject the ad, said, "They are more concerned about their bottom line than fair play" (L.A. TIMES, 1/27).

A POLARIZING ISSUE: National Organization for Women Action VP Erin Matson yesterday said that "abortion is an incredibly complex issue that cannot be condensed into a 30-second commercial, and running the ad is not a smart thing to do for either viewpoint." However, Matson noted that her organization, which has joined Women's Media Center's campaign, has "no plants to buy a Super Bowl spot or specifically rebut" the Tebow ad. Focus on the Family VP/Media Relations Gary Schneeberger said that he is "surprised at the outrage over the content of the commercial considering the fact that the ad has not been seen." Schneeberger: "To comment on an ad that you haven't seen seems difficult to do" (WASHINGTON TIMES, 1/27). Schneeberger would not disclose details about the ad, which he called "refreshing and very inspiring." When asked if Focus on the Family would protest a pro-choice Super Bowl ad, he said, "It's hard to speculate. It would depend upon the details" (EW.com, 1/26).

OPENING PANDORA'S BOX? USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand writes the Focus on the Family ad "might pave the way for controversial spots to regularly pop up on marquee TV -- giving broadcasters new sideshows to generate buzz." CBS News and Sports President Sean McManus declined to comment on the network's ad policy, but said, "As far as generating interest and curiosity, (Super Bowl ads) are part of the game" (USA TODAY, 1/27). Ad Age columnist Bob Garfield said, "I'm stunned that any of the networks would risk one of the few, last great franchises of broadcast television for an ad that could polarize viewers." He added, "This is a multi-hundred-million-dollar franchise that networks have historically protected by avoiding controversy, especially in the ads. I'm surprised that anybody's going to take a risk by accepting an ad with an explicit religious message" (WASHINGTON POST, 1/27). In St. Petersburg, Eric Deggans wrote it "seems odd" that CBS would accept an ad that "might be construed as anti-choice from an organization known for controversial views opposing abortion rights and homosexuality." Is a Super Bowl commercial an "appropriate place to spark a discussion about abortion?" (TAMPABAY.com, 1/26).

Tebow Receiving Mixed Response For Taking
Part In Focus On The Family's Ad
THE RIGHT PLATFORM? In Orlando, George Diaz writes under the header, "Super Bowl Is The Wrong Audience For Tim Tebow's Message." Good for Tebow for "standing up for what he believes is right," but we are "going down a road here that is filled with potholes, moral and otherwise." The Super Bowl "shouldn't be hijacked and turned into a morality play of 30-second increments" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 1/27). FanHouse.com's Jay Mariotti said, "There's a time and place to crusade and the Super Bowl, a 30-second advertisement on Super Bowl Sunday, is not the place to be talking about anti-abortion" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 1/26). ABC News' Dan Harris: "Many sports fans say that is a great shame, that what has been a day for Americans to come together over football could become yet another day where we are divided over politics and the culture wars" ("World News," ABC, 1/26). But in Ft. Lauderdale, Diana Mellion writes under the header, "What's Wrong With A Super Bowl Ad That Promotes A Positive Message?" Mellion: "I guess Super Sunday is the best time to promote sex, promiscuity, gambling, etc., but don't instill any values to the most impressionable viewers watching the game: teens and young adults" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 1/27).

SOMETHING TO BELIEVE IN: L.A. Times columnist Bill Plaschke said, "Whether you agree or disagree with the message, in my mind I admire Tim Tebow for doing this. We always rip athletes for not taking social stands. We always rip athletes for hiding behind their sports" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 1/26). ESPN's Chris Mortensen: "If anyone thinks Tebow is going to compromise his beliefs for marketers, they're badly mistaken" (TWITTER.com, 1/25). ESPN's Michael Wilbon: "I defend his right to be involved in a commercial to say whatever he wants to say. But it's a wildly passionate issue in an area he's venturing into, and this could open up Pandora's Box. ... I don't think anybody of (his) age can accurately assess the passion that's going to come back at them" ("PTI," ESPN, 1/26).

MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING? YAHOO SPORTS' Matt Hinton wrote, "I've been writing about Tebow for more than four years, and the odds of him associating with anything remotely controversial or politically incorrect enough to justify the reactions to the Super Bowl ad are about as good as him becoming the next clown killer." The ad is "guaranteed to be generic and inoffensive -- in other words, for those of us more interested in the spectacle and sideshow than the politics, a letdown" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 1/26).

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