• Want to Change the Culture? Go To Where The Money Is.

    by  • May 22, 2014 • Advertiser Accountability • 1 Comment

    burger_red“The environment in which a message runs is part of the message.” Andrea Alstrup

     We’ve received some feedback and questions about our efforts to hold McDonald’s accountable for their sponsorship behavior, so I’d like to take a moment here to explain what we’re doing and why.

    McDonalds was once a family-friendly TV sponsor. That’s no longer the case. In fact, in recent years, McDonalds has been seen to support some of the very worst content on television. McDonald’s ad dollars have paid for:

    - Jokes about child sex abuse on Family Guy

    - Graphic, gory violence on Scandal and The Following

    - Explicit sexual content on Reign

    And more. In fact, the Parents Television Council recently looked at the top sponsors of some of TV’s most problematic shows, and found that McDonald’s was a frequent sponsor of the most sexually graphic and foul-mouthed shows on television.

    Almost from the day the PTC was started, a cornerstone of our efforts has been holding companies accountable for the programs they make possible with their advertising dollars. Advertising revenue is the lifeblood of broadcast and basic cable television. It doesn’t matter how critically-acclaimed a show might be, or how many people love it or hate it, all that really matters at the end of the day, is how much money it makes for the network.

    Many of us have been led to believe that networks program for us. That we are the end consumer and that television content is the product. A better way to understand the broadcast model, though, is to view ourselves as the commodity, the product being sold, and the advertiser as the end consumer. The networks aren’t selling programming to us, they’re selling eyeballs –us– to advertisers.

    If we wish to transform the media culture; if we wish to have a lasting impact on the kind of content streaming into our homes over the public airwaves, we have to transform the way advertisers view their responsibility to the public, and the way they think about television sponsorship.

    When we first started contacting TV sponsors about what they were paying for with their ad dollars, the standard response was “Sponsors?! We’re not sponsors. We buy ad time on a show, but there haven’t been TV sponsors since the days of the Texaco Star Theater.” We set them straight. We explained that if they are buying time on certain programs in order to reach certain desired demographics, then spending their ad dollars on that program is a tacit endorsement of the content in that program. That strategy has been effective, and over the years, we’ve seen a number of companies pull their ad dollars from programs because of content concerns. We’ve also seen advertisers proactively working to create family programming that they can feel good about supporting with their advertising. The Family Friendly Programming Forum came about because of advertisers’ concerns about a lack of suitable programming they could support with their ad dollars.

    But though we’ve had good success in persuading companies to withdraw their advertising support from specific programs; as soon as a new season gets underway, there’s a new crop of problematic shows, and we start all over again.

    We need to persuade advertisers that they have the power to effect positive change; that they have a role to play in pressuring the networks to create suitable environments for their advertisements to run in. The key to cleaning up the airwaves is to convince advertisers, one company at a time, to change the way they approach TV sponsorship.



    Ms. Henson is a noted expert on entertainment industry trends and the how the impact of entertainment affects children and the American popular culture at large. She also directs the organization’s Advertiser Accountability Campaign, which encourages companies to sponsor family-friendly entertainment. She previously supervised the research and program content analysis operations of the PT and produced a number of groundbreaking PTC studies that document the levels of graphic sex, violence and profanity on television. Some of those reports include: The Ratings Sham I & II, Dying to Entertain, Faith in a Box, The Sour Family Hour, The Blue Tube, and TV Bloodbath. She began her career with the PTC in 1997 as an entertainment analyst, documenting instances of inappropriate content on television. Ms. Henson has appeared on a variety of television shows including Fox News Channel’s The O’Reilly Factor, Your World with Neil Cavuto, The Big Story, CNN Headline News’ ShowBiz Tonight, CNBC’s On the Money, MSNBC’s Scarborough Country, and CBN’s Newswatch. She is a frequent guest on radio talk shows across the country and has been quoted extensively in news sources such asEntertainment Weekly, Time, Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, USA Today, New York Daily News, Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, Variety, Associated Press, Reuters, and Bloomberg. Ms. Henson is a graduate of the University of Virginia where she received a BA in Government. She resides in Falls Church, Va., with her husband and their son.

    One Response to Want to Change the Culture? Go To Where The Money Is.

    1. James Hawn
      May 22, 2014 at 6:57 pm

      Enough is enough, eating at Mc’s is choice not a necessity and you folks are not paying attention.

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