Amex, AT&T avoid controversial talker

AT&T and American Express are likely to become the next major corporations to pass on advertising on Paramount’s upcoming “Dr. Laura” TV show.

On the heels of Procter & Gamble’s decision not to advertise on the upcoming talker starring Dr. Laura Schlessinger, sources indicate that AT&T and Amex plan to instruct their media buyers not to purchase ad time on the show.

Like P&G, AT&T’s and Amex’s decisions are said to be due to the controversy surrounding the show, which is set to debut Sept. 11 in broadcast syndication.

An AT&T spokesman could not confirm the decision Tuesday, noting that it is company policy not to comment on any ad buys.

Likewise, a spokeswoman for Amex said that while the company did air ads on the radio show earlier in the year that have concluded their run, she could not confirm any decisions regarding advertising on the TV show.

Schlessinger’s on-air comments about homosexuality have sparked a campaign by gay protestors, organized through the Web site stopdrlaura.com and the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), to shut down the TV show before it airs.

Reacting to the controversy, United Airlines last week said it would no longer accept ads in its in-flight magazine for Schlessinger’s radio show.

A Paramount source said Par never pitched the show to American Express or AT&T because the studio doesn’t see them as targeting daytime, women or syndication.

GLAAD kicks off a $200,000 print ad campaign today urging advertisers not to support the show.

Ads in the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times — which say “Ad time with ‘Dr. Laura’ is for sale. Here’s what you’re buying.” — were scheduled to run today. The ad proceeds to list critical comments attributed to Schlessinger on such topics as single motherhood and homosexuality.

The campaign will continue in trade publications May 30.

Par position

A Paramount spokeswoman reiterated a recent statement indicating Par’s committment to “presenting society’s moral and ethical issues without creating or contributing to an environment of hurt, hate or intolerance” (Daily Variety, May 18).

Par also said it had “strong upfront sales” for the show, and that it was “disappointed that Procter & Gamble has chosen to withdraw their advertising without ever having seen the show.”

Funds for the GLAAD ads came from donations by individuals working “largely in the Hollywood and tech communities,” said GLAAD spokesman Steve Spurgeon, who declined to identify any of the specific donors.

While the timing of the campaign appears to be capitalizing on P&G’s and United Airlines’ decisions, GLAAD entertainment media director Scott Seomin said that the buy was made prior to those announcements.

Affils, buyers targeted

The ads, rather, are meant to coincide with the run-up to the May 31 CBS affiliates meeting in Las Vegas, as well as the general ad-buying season. The CBS O&Os are the core launch group of the show.

“(The ads) continue the momentum; we want to keep media buyers aware of Schlessinger’s rhetoric and that it comes with the baggage of offending many segments of the population,” Seomin said.

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