Group blasts ABC promos

NEW YORK — ABC’s lighthearted ad campaign celebrating the idea of people vegging out in front of their TV sets has drawn fire from the D.C.-based consumer group TV-Free America.

“ABC’s campaign argues that it’s cool to park in front of the tube all day long,” said Henry Labalme, executive director of TV-Free America. “That’s carrying irony too far — it’s like hipness unto death.”

The $40 million ad flight, which kicks off next month, features tag lines like “It’s a beautiful day — What are you doing outside?” and “Don’t worry: You’ve got billions of brain cells.”

The executive VP of marketing for ABC, Alan Cohen, said earlier this month that the campaign “has an irreverence and celebrates the love of television in a way that we don’t think has really been embraced before.”

Labalme hates the ABC ads because the whole purpose of TV-Free America is to urge people to shut off their sets and do things like go for a walk, play the piano, build a birdhouse or keep a diary. “The ABC campaign,” he said, “is a shot across the bow of our organization.”

ABC has launched the campaign because it’s “panicking” in the face of consistently declining ratings, Labalme said. Support for TV-Free America, a nonprofit organization, comes from its members, and from foundations like the Merck Family Fund and the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation.

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