Verizon hangs up on ‘Dr. Laura’

Advertisers ask to be dropped from future skein airings

At least four advertisers, including wireless provider Verizon, have asked not to be featured during future episodes of Paramount’s “Dr. Laura” after their spots were unwittingly run during the syndicated talker’s Monday debut.

“Dr. Laura’s” debut averaged a prelim weighted metered market average 2.0 rating/7 share, according to Nielsen.

Ads for Verizon Online DSL aired in a handful of markets during the preem, but these were unauthorized, a Verizon spokesman said. And the company has asked not to be associated with the program in the future.

Legal practice Jacoby & Meyers Legal Network, Bally’s Total Fitness and Closet World were also unaware that their station-wide media buys would mean their ads would be scheduled during “Dr. Laura.” Once the companies found out, they requested the spots be pulled from the show.

In a statement Tuesday, Verizon declared, “Verizon is not now and has never been a sponsor of the ‘Dr. Laura’ program, nor has Verizon authorized that ads for our company’s products be placed by local stations in the ‘Dr. Laura’ programs.”

Verizon spokesman Peter Thonis said that the company’s ad buys require pre-approval of which programs feature the commercials.

Since Verizon sees the placement of DSL ads in the “Dr. Laura” show as a violation of the agreements with the stations involved, the company will refuse to pay for those ads and will cancel the current ad buy for the DSL product on those stations, Thonis said.

As a result of the ads for Verizon that aired during “Dr. Laura,” the company was included on a list of “Dr. Laura” sponsors posted on Web site StopDrLaura.com. Protest groups’ site is trying to create an advertising boycott of the show.

StopDrLaura.com has led the gay community’s activism against the show’s host, Dr. Laura Schlessinger, who has referred to homosexuality as a “biological error.”

Among the stations that aired the Verizon ad during “Dr. Laura” was the Eye’s O&O KCBS in Los Angeles (Daily Variety, Sept. 12).

Jacoby & Meyers was another unwitting advertiser during “Dr. Laura” on KCBS. The legal practice purchases ad time through Denver-based Network Affiliates, which arranges to have spots air during the day for a general audience.

Unlike Verizon, the company does not require prior approval of programs it advertises on. Upon finding out that the company’s spot landed on “Dr. Laura,” Jacoby & Meyers VP Mindy Gandin said she asked her buyer to ensure that the company’s ads do not air during future episodes of “Dr. Laura.”

“My daughter is gay, and I’m just as upset as anyone that our ads ran during ‘Dr. Laura,’ ” Gandin said.

John Severino, prexy of CBS Television Stations and general manager of KCBS, could not be reached for comment regarding the ads.

A Bally’s spokeswoman confirmed Tuesday that the company also had made a decision to instruct stations not to air Bally’s ads on “Dr. Laura” after an ad ran in Washington, D.C. as part of a stationwide buy.

Elsewhere in syndication, three other shows debuted Monday.

King World’s “Curtis Court” earned a 1.3 rating/5 share, according to Nielsen’s prelim weighted metered market averages. That represents 100% retention of its lead-in share and a 17% dip from its year-ago time period average share.

Columbia TriStar TV Distribution’s “Judge Hatchett” earned a 1.8/6, down 14% from both its lead-in and year-ago share.

And “HouseCalls,” distribbed by Buena Vista Television, earned a 1.1/4, down 33% from its lead-in and down 20% from a year ago.

While “Dr. Laura” was the highest-rated new syndie strip to preem Monday, it was down 33% from its lead-in and down 25% from its year-ago share.

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