Network brewing controversy with 'Gossip' ads

In another sign of change in the network world, the CW is ditching its traditional upfront presentation for a cocktail party.

The CW had been planning to hold its normal advertiser powwow May 15 at the Theater at Madison Square Garden, the same Thursday that Fox presents to advertisers.

Instead, net has opted for a more casual party and presentation the night of May 13. Event will move uptown to a tent just outside of Lincoln Center. Party will start at 5:30, and the presentation will begin at 6:30 p.m. CW is timing its event to be adjacent to ABC’s upfront, which is still set for the afternoon of May 13.

A rep for the netlet said the changes didn’t represent a scaling back of the CW’s upfront ambitions.

“It’s a different year in many ways, and we decided to mix it up,” he said. “We still plan on giving advertisers a great sense of where we’re headed.”

In the near future, CW execs hope to be headed for at least a little bit of controversy over a new ad campaign for the net’s hottest show, “Gossip Girl.”

Print and broadcast campaign is centered around the text messaging/ email abbreviation “OMFG” (oh my fucking God) and racy images of the show’s attractive young cast gettin’ busy.

On Wednesday, images from the ads began popping up on blogs at the New York Post, the TV Addict and TV Guide, as well as Gotham newspaper RedEye. By Thursday, mainstream media outlets got into the act, with the CW even ready with a statement in case anyone objected to the ads.

“We wanted to create a provocative campaign that stands out from the competition and reminds viewers of some of the OMG moments that have made ‘Gossip Girl’ one of the most buzzed about new shows on television,” the statement read, adding in the show’s relaunch date for good measure.  “This sexy, sophisticated campaign speaks directly to our adult 18-34 viewers using expressions that are part of their lexicon.”

Industry observers have been critical of the CW’s overall marketing campaigns, noting how conventional they’ve seemed when compared to those of network predecessor the WB. New ads seem designed to counter that rep — and stir up some media buzz to boot.

No word yet on whether the net is planning an “LOL” campaign for laffer “Aliens in America” or a “TTYL” send-off for the soon-to-depart “Girlfriends.”

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