Advertisers Start to Return to Samantha Bee’s ‘Full Frontal’

Madison Avenue is in the early stages of making a U-turn for Samantha Bee’s “Full Frontal.”

Ever since the comedienne sparked controversy by using a vulgar epithet to refer to Ivanka Trump during her May 30 broadcast, most advertisers have avoided the weekly TBS series. For two weeks, the network’s parent company, Turner, has filled commercial breaks with promos for its various original series like “Claws” and “Animal Kingdom,” and a smattering of movie trailers and 30-second spots from Sony’s PlayStation. On Wednesday night, however, the show was accompanied by more national commercials than it has been in the last to weeks.

National advertisers included ETrade, PlayStation, Progressive Insurance, Kia, Wonderful Pistachios, and Universal Pictures’ “Skyscraper” and “The First Purge” movies. That marks a 50% increase in national ads compared to each of the show’s past two weeks.

To be sure, the program continues to suffer from an advertiser defection. In its first 17 broadcasts this season, “Full Frontal” carried an average of six minutes and 46 seconds of commercial time, according to Kantar Media, a WPP unit that tracks ad spending. In each of the past two weeks, the show has carried under two minutes of national ads. The average cost of a 30-second spot on the program in 2018 is $13,747, according to Standard Media Index.

The network is seeing better traction for “Full Frontal” among advertisers in mid and late July, according to a person familiar with the matter. The next original broadcast of the show will air July 18th, TBS said Wednesday night.

“Full Frontal” still faces headwinds. Three media-buying executives said many advertisers “temporarily suspended” any support of the show, opting for appearances elsewhere in Turner’s portfolio of cable networks. “There will always be some clients that will pause activity after an incident such as this, but most will come back on as long as there are no more issues and an appropriate apology is given,” said one executive. “There will also be a minority of clients, who have a zero tolerance policy, who will remove themselves entirely for good.”
One bright spot: Some of Bee’s biggest commercial supporters haven’t abandoned her. According to Kantar, the five biggest spenders on ad time for “Full Frontal” in the first quarter of this year were Warner Bros. Pictures, Microsoft, 20th Century Fox, Yum Brands’ Taco Bell and Comcast’s Universal Pictures. Warner Bros. and Universal have been a steady presence in the show even in the recent lean weeks. Warner Bros. is, like TBS, part of the WarnerMedia unit recently acquired by AT&T.
Buyers said Bee does not face the same hurdles that some cable-news anchors do when advertisers choose to boycott their programs. Because her program airs just once a week (with a repeat late Saturday night), TBS is not forced to run multiple broadcasts each week with low commercial support, or with ads from direct-response marketers, who typically pay less than market prices for their appearances. “TBS does not seem to have expressed any long-term concern,”said another media-buying executive.
Bee has apologized multiple times for her use of an offensive word that is typically used to refer to part of the female anatomy. But she’s not done making fun of the incident. On Wednesday’s broadcast, during a segment about migrant children being separated from their parents when they cross into the United States, Bee referred to reports that the kids are being kept in cages, and noted that upset conservatives. “Who knew conservatives were so sensitive about the c-word?” she asked her audience. “I should make a note of that.”

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