Would advertisers fall all over themselves to buy time on a documentary called “The Nature of Evil?”
That was the question that faced Court TV a couple of months ago when it started fitting the film into its programming schedule for early June.
The doc’s writer-director, Alex Gibney (“Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room”), loved the title because he thought it perfectly captured the famous psychological experiments, conducted years ago in the U.S., showing that most people would inflict pain on others if an authority figure told them to do so.
The Sundance Channel, which co-financed the doc with Court TV, also was enamored, figuring viewers would be provoked to tune in.
But when Court TV’s ad salespeople sounded out Madison Avenue, they discovered that no advertising exec was eager to attach a sponsor’s product to an exploration of something that could put people in the wrong frame of mind to think about breakfast cereal or toothpaste.
Sundance Channel, which doesn’t take standard advertising, fought a title change, but when the doc premiered June 1, it was remonikered.
The new, safer, title: “The Human Behavior Experiments.”