Ad promise takes a powder

Remember all that talk about not advertising R-rated pics on TV programming with youthful auds? Turns out that kids can still catch such spots during the early primetime hours — if they’re sports fans.

New Line’s drug-themed “Blow,” in fact, got some prime exposure during the recent NCAA basketball tournament on CBS. And ads for MGM’s “Hannibal” and Warner Bros. slasher pic “Valentine” ran during CBS’ early-evening Super Bowl telecast Jan. 28.

So are the studios reneging on the promises they made to lawmakers last fall, when they agreed to curtail the marketing of violent R-rated pics to kids?

It seems not, though the language of their promises did leave plenty of wiggle room.

Warner Bros. and Fox pledged to refrain from advertising such movies on TV shows when more than 35% of the audience is under 17. Disney and its ABC net promised R-rated films would not be advertised before 9 p.m.

It’s that 35% standard that allowed New Line, a Warner Bros. subsid, to promote its R-rated, drug-themed pic “Blow” during the NCAA basketball tournament, with a March 31 spot running as early as 7 p.m.

“Based on last weekend’s overnights, 3% of the audience watching the game was under the age of 17,” New Line spokesman Steve Elzer says. “Given that research, our placement of this ad was well within our studio’s marketing policies.”

Likewise the spots for “Hannibal” and “Valentine.” Eyebrows were raised, but studio execs say the media buys conformed with their previously stated guidelines.

The Federal Trade Commission is expected to issue a report card later this month on how Hollywood is doing with regard to the marketing of violent fare to kids. Among other things, the agency will assess whether studios are living up to their promises.

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