Monday, February 1, 2010


One the fun things I like to do on occasion is listen to Rush Limbaugh and take him about as seriously as I would Archie Bunker in All In The Family. I get a laugh out of some of some of his catch phrases, especially when he refers to the "liberal mainstream media." What he's doing here is making historical reference for the sake of baby boomers who grew up watching the parents on The Brady Bunch understand their children, Alan Alda on M*A*S*H speak out against war, and Billy Crystal play an openly gay character on Soap. In reality, of course, there is no such thing as a "liberal mainstream media." Aside from the fact that the phrase is an oxymoron - if the ideology being espoused is liberal, then it is by nature not in the mainstream -the reality is that the major broadcast networks are owned by conservative major corporations. Disney stands out, but Viacom and G.E. aren't too far behind. And, of course, Fox sets its own standard for conservative news coverage. These corporations employ pretty much the same kind of guy (yes, I mean men) to head their broadcast divisions: balding sales executives who wear suits and ties and a Rolex every day and listen to the smooth jazz station while driving their Mercedes S-class to work. These guys aren't interested in making political statements or seeing how many people their network can offend; these guys want ad revenue to go up. It's as simple as that.

Which brings us to the current hullabaloo over commercials on the Superbowl. CBS has accepted an anti-abortion ad from the conservative group Focus on the Family, but said no to an ad from the gay matching service ManCrunch. Let the fur start flying. Is it fair? No. Is it a big surprise? Of course not. Is there anything anybody can do about it? Probably not. Is it all a big bunch of hooey to get you to watch a Superbowl that might not otherwise interest you? Oh yeah.

For what it's worth, CBS also gave the nix to an ad from for being potentially offensive in some way. We're not hearing much about that, probably because they had other spots in the pipeline and doesn't exactly spur hot political reaction.

Make no mistake, these advertisers have a message to get out. Focus on the Family wants a captive audience for their message that might not otherwise go beyond the already initiated. They know that Tim Tebow shares their point of view and have enlisted him to draw attention to their message because Tebow can throw a football, which eminently qualifies him to contradict gynecologists.

ManCruch has a message, too. Unfortunately, that message doesn't go over well beyond Greenwich Village and San Fransisco. ManCrunch's ad agency knew where the line was, and crossed it with surgeon-like precision to get CBS to give them the boot, and generate far more buzz than a single Superbowl would have ever done. Clever.

So, is the network that once brought us Maude wussing out? Well, let's go back to that network executive in his Mercedes listening to Anita Baker. The first thing he did when the teams for the Superbowl were confirmed was look at the markets these teams represent. It's Indianapolis vs. New Orleans. From a Midwestern point of view one team is from Venus and the other is from Mars. But what really matters to the network is the economic status of these markets from which most of the viewer interest will come.

Indy is no cow town, but it's hardly in the same league with New York, Dallas, LA, Boston, or Philly. Once you leave the beltway, you're in Indiana, buddy. All you have to do is ask Dave Letterman how that works. The Colts' secondary fan base is in towns like Fort Wayne, where the market is so depressed that the CBS affiliate there has no master control. WANE is actually run out of WISH in Indianapolis. A lot of folks like Peyton Manning, a star in his own right who may very well enjoy a fine career in the booth years from now. But I would imagine Jets fans and Patriots fans feel no love for watching the Colts win another Lombardi. New York City may just sleep this one out, leaving the largest revenue market in America watching YouTube on Super Sunday unless somebody can stir up some interest. How about the ManCrunch thing? A-ha!

And there's New Orleans. I don't need to tell you the story of that market's hard times. They deserve something positive like this. But from the network's standpoint, the problem is not just the same, it's worse. In the aftermath of Katrina and the exodus of people searching for temporary housing New Orleans saw their market ranking drop 11 places. That ranking has recovered somewhat, but the economic status is lagging far behind. It's kind of hard for a CBS ad exec to convince Lexus to run ads on a New Orleans Superbowl. Don't expect to see a whole lot of brokerage firms and major banks on the air either. They're having enough troubles as it is. And as for ManCrush... OK. You run an ad for a gay dating service in the Deep South and see how well that goes over.

Tim Tebow speaking against abortion in the highly Catholic New Orleans? It's a match made in Heaven. In fact, in much of the South the Florida Gator quarterback doesn't speak for God... He is God. Perhaps CBS was afraid if they said no to Tebow, "God's gonna get you for that."

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