Wednesday, January 27, 2010

CBS Reconsiders Advocacy Advertising

I wrote about this last week:

2004: The United Church of Christ initiated a God is Still Speaking campaign and came out with a collection of 30 second commercials aimed at attracting the unchurched. Various church leaders and communities -- including some within the UCC -- found the ads inflammatory, self-righteous, and accusatory, particularly the UCC's 'Bouncer' ad, which featured a church bouncer that wouldn't allow a gay couple and a few others past the velvet rope and into the church. The UCC tried airing this ad and another one during the 2004 Lenten season. CBS, ABC, and a few other channels refused to air the ad, citing policies against advocacy advertising. Apparently, as I recall, this GISS 'Bouncer' ad advocated "gay marriage". (whatever...) The UCC protested and nothing ultimately came of it.

2010: CBS agreed to sell Super Bowl ad-time to Focus on the Family for an anti-abortion message from some football player whose name escapes me, but who could've been aborted for medical reasons way back when. Two factions spoke up. One group generally doesn't want anti-abortion messages aired during a national football game. The other group is really more interested in calling CBS on its conflicting messages. Does it or does it not allow advocacy advertisement? Why is Focus on the Family's advocacy okay, but not the United Church of Christ's?

Actually, in my mind, the real question should be is the Bouncer ad really an advocacy ad?

Well, CBS has finally issued a response to this latest bruhaha:

After CBS sparked outrage by agreeing to a Super Bowl ad featuring college football player Tim Tebow and his mother speaking out against abortion, network
officials are now saying they have new rules allowing "advocacy" ads to run during the big game.

The network has eased restrictions on such ads — as long as they are "responsibly produced," they are acceptable to be aired during the Super Bowl, CBS officials told the Los Angeles Times. CBS will allow other issue-oriented ads to run during the few remaining commercial time slots available during the February 7 Super Bowl. The Tebow ad — which cost between $2.5 million and $2.8 million — is funded by Focus on the Family, a group adamantly opposed to both reproductive and gay rights.

CBS took flak in 2004 for rejecting a gay-friendly ad by the United Church of Christ; network officials say that under their new rules, that commercial would be allowed to air.

So essentially CBS is now fine with "responsibly produced" advocacy ads and considers the 'Bouncer' ad amongst those "responsibly produced" ads.

Now I'm hearing calls for CBS to air the UCC 'Bouncer' ad during the Super Bowl or for CBS to air it for free. I personally think that we should let it rest. The UCC doesn't have the money for national television advertising and CBS shouldn't be blackmailed into airing our ads for free.

Our time would be better served improving the quality of our churches so that those unchurched masses have a reason to check out our churches week after week. Or maybe we could have people work on the whole concept of "advocacy advertising" with the networks so that this doesn't happen again.

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