The Changing Standards of Condom Advertising on American Television
In 1991, FOX television became the first broadcast TV network in this country to air a paid condom commercial. A decade later, three of the six major networks (CBS, FOX, and NBC)
officially allow condom advertising at the network level,
although all three limit the times at which such ads can run,
and at least one (FOX) prohibits them from focusing on
pregnancy prevention. The three other broadcast networks
-- ABC, UPN and The WB -- all have policies in place prohibiting
condom advertising at the network level.
Several major cable networks also accept condom advertising, including MTV, Comedy Central, BET, CNN, TNT, USA and TBS. In addition, local broadcast affiliates in several major markets have accepted condom advertising, including stations affiliated with networks that don't accept such ads on the national level. On balance, however, the restrictions placed on condom advertising by some networks and local stations, combined with the modest advertising budgets of condom marketers, has kept condom advertising at low to imperceptible levels.
Several factors appear to be behind the increasing willingness of some media companies to air condom commercials: the HIV/AIDS epidemic; the increasingly sexual nature of many TV shows; the willingness of several local stations to test the waters by airing condom ads years before the networks agreed to do so; the FDA's landmark 1997 decision loosening the restrictions on prescription drug advertising on TV; and a major ad campaign by Johnson & Johnson in support of its Ortho Tri-Cyclen birth control pill. Even with the opening up of some networks' policies, advertising for condoms remains more restricted than advertising for many other products, including other contraceptives. And whether it is due to those restrictions, or for other financial reasons, the advertising budgets of condom companies have been so low that condom ads have been relatively rare even on those networks and affiliates willing to accept such ads (Michael Wilke, Special to the Kaiser Daily Reports, 6/19).
To read the full version of this story on kaisernetwork.org, click here. To view today's Kaiser Family Foundation press briefing, "Condoms on TV: Unwrapping the Controversy" press briefing (available at 5 p.m. tomorrow), at which a new survey on Americans' attitudes toward condom television advertising will be released, click here. Please note that these links are available to Web readers only.