Local TV Stations React to Trojan Condom-Promotion Commercial
"Controversy" surrounding a television commercial for Trojan condoms has "trickled down to the local level," with stations in Pittsburgh "roundly refusing" to air the commercial and stations in Seattle "giving it the green light," the New York Times reports (Newman, New York Times, 7/16). The commercial, which premiered last month, features women at a bar surrounded by pigs. When one pig goes to the restroom and returns with a condom purchased at a vending machine, he is transformed into an attractive man. The end of the commercial carries the message: "Evolve: Use a condom every time." Fox and CBS rejected the commercial. Fox in a letter to Trojan said it rejected the advertisement because contraceptive "advertising must stress health-related uses rather than the prevention of pregnancy." CBS in a rejection wrote that the ad was not "appropriate" for the network, "even with late-night only restrictions."
The ad will run on ABC and NBC; nine cable stations, including MTV and Comedy Central; and during Cartoon Network's Adult Swim. In addition, print ads will appear in 11 magazines, including Cosmopolitan and Glamour, and on seven Web sites. All of the ads highlight a Web site, trojanevolve.com (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/19). According to the Times, the commercial has been viewed almost 100,000 times on YouTube, and trojanevolve.com has had more than 400,000 unique visitors since June 18.
According to Jim Daniels, vice president for marketing at Trojan, the company chose Pittsburgh and Seattle as test markets for the commercial to determine if a higher frequency of ads would increase condom sales. However, local ABC and NBC affiliates in Pittsburgh have refused to air the commercial, even though the networks have agreed to air them nationally. The local CBS affiliate also rejected the commercial, and Trojan did not attempt to place the ad with the local Fox affiliate, according to the Times. Seattle, on the other hand, has "put out the welcome mat" for Trojan, the Times reports. Every station that the company has approached, including local CBS and Fox affiliates, has agreed to air the commercial.
Comcast, the cable provider for Pittsburgh and Seattle, has not permitted Trojan to buy local advertising time during Adult Swim programming in either city. However, because Adult Swim has accepted national advertising, the commercials will appear in those time slots in the two cities. Although Comcast agreed to sell ad slots to Trojan in Pittsburgh and Seattle for other networks, including MTV and Comedy Central, Daniels said the company might cancel Pittsburgh as a test market because of the reaction to the ads.
Daniels said he thinks it is hypocritical for networks to accept ads for products aimed at conditions like herpes and erectile dysfunction but to reject condom ads. "One of my hopes is that we see the networks' standards evolve to be more practical and fair," he said. In reaction to the public support for the Evolve campaign, Daniels said that there is "a lot of support for the commercial and the general sense of advocating comprehensive sex education." According to a 2001 survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 71% of U.S. residents believe that condom ads should be permitted on TV, compared with 64% who said that beer ads should be allowed and 51% who said that hard liquor ads should be permitted.
In response to the rejection of the commercials nationally, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America called on supporters to send complaints to CBS CEO Leslie Moonves and Peter Liguori, chair of entertainment for Fox. More than 44,000 e-mails were sent, according to Planned Parenthood. "These networks are celebrating a free sexual lifestyle in their programming but refusing to talk about it in their advertising," Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, said, adding, "The big problem in this country is we're hedonistic in our behavior and moralistic in our attitudes. We don't have an open discussion about our sexuality, and the price of not being open is millions of sexually transmitted infections" (New York Times, 7/16).