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Advertisers Running the Wrong Way Regarding MTV’s 'Skins'
By: Mike Zuckerman
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MTV’s 10-episode scripted teen-whatever show “Skins,” adapted from a successful British series of the same name, has been collecting a tremendous amount of buzz1 lately concerning both its family-unfriendly content and its epic advertiser exodus. Since analyzing the quality of show content is neither germane to this website nor in the real interest2 of this piece, we’ll simply focus on the marketing impact for now and why it’s quite possible, and even likely, that the fleeing advertisers in question are making a huge mistake in doing so.
 
OK, so the fact that “Skins’” ratings are dropping off right now is cause for some concern for advertisers who made an investment in the program and network. But, as we know, ratings are fickle beasts (perhaps it was just missing its monolithic “Jersey Shore” lead-in) and a ratings dip wasn’t the reason the advertisers were ditching “Skins” anyway. It’s this pair of ‘em: one, application of massive amounts of pressure from “concerned viewers” and watchdog groups like the Parents Television Council3and two, some advertisers’ own paranoid and seemingly kneejerk reactions to something receiving any hint of negative publicity. So as a result, and depending upon their locus of control, advertisers like Taco Bell, Proctiv, Wrigley, Schick, and Subway are pulling their “Skins” ads for, ostensibly, one of those above reasons. And that’s up to them, of course. It’s their product, their brand, and their ad dollars, so they can do whatever they want regarding “Skins,” but that doesn’t mean they’re doing what’s in the best interest of their business.
 
So why would running away from “Skins” be a mistake, anyway? Umm, marketing guys: you should be aware that the folks who make up “Skins’” target demographic (teens, young adults) are the very people using Taco Bell’s, Subway’s and Proactiv’s (read: your) products. The members of the Parents Television Council and the politicians said council is urging parents to contact regarding pulling “Skins” off of the air aren’t. They’re just the ones trying to get in between you and the people you’re trying to sell your product to. And, via your capitulation, you’re letting them, which is bad for sales. Plus, what are you saying to the current, and potential future, “Skins” fans who do enjoy, or potentially enjoy, eating your inexpensive large subs, eating your inexpensive tacos, and using your acne cleanser by pulling your ads from the program? You’re not only getting exposed less to those folks, but you’re also psychologically alienating them by telling them that programming they enjoy and quite possibly identify with (like “Skins”) is too disgusting or morally deficient4 to have your products even be tangentially associated with it. Is that really what you want to do?
 
The moral of the story here is this, advertisers: trust the good judgment and research your media guys and gals provide and go where your consumers are5. You definitely want them, and not the Parents Television Council, placing your media for you.
 
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1Please understand: I hate myself for using this word but can’t think of a proper proxy.
 
2Personally, I think the show stinks, and not because of its “raunchiness.” I made it through 1.25 episodes and figured I’d risk permanent brain damage by sticking around any longer. But, again, that’s not the point.
 
3By the way, has it occurred to these groups that their teenage children are apt to do exactly what they tell them not to do? As in, they're probably more likely to watch “Skins” now than before because of this very public outcry? They are, after all, teenagers.
 
4Quick note to Proactiv and Taco Bell: stuff like this and this, in my humble opinion, is what will turn your users against you. Not advertising during “Skins.”
 
5Kudos for Clearasil for sticking around.


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About the Author
Mike Zuckerman is a copywriter who enjoys quiet, clean, country living in the heart of Los Angeles. Email him here.
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