Democracy Soup

Making sense out of the world of politics

Tim Tebow ad proves networks’ exceptions go only one way

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(Editor’s Note: Not only do I have a background in covering politics, but also I have covered marketing with an emphasis on the impact of Super Bowl ads.)

As a political junkie, even if you aren’t into sports, you probably have some idea who Tim Tebow is. After all, Tebow is in an ad scheduled to air on the Super Bowl Sunday on CBS-TV. And the ad is controversial, though not always in the way the coverage has shown.

An anti-choice/pro-life 30 second ad in the biggest advertising day of the year is volatile enough of a topic, but this speaks volumes to a larger point.

The major over-the-air networks have rules that they will not run advocacy ads. If you advocate to drink a particular soft drink, that is OK. If you advocate for a particular political/social issue, the networks reserve the right not to run the ad.

Within the confines of political advertising, certain themes/messages can be introduced into ads the networks wouldn’t run otherwise.

Whatever you might think about these rules, as long as the rules are followed consistently, there is a sense of fairness, or unfairness that is consistently applied.

Except — there isn’t a sense of fairness because exceptions are made, but only for one side. And that isn’t really fair.

If Planned Parenthood wanted to buy a 30-second ad in the Super Bowl or on CSI/NCIS or some other show, every major network would flat out say “no.” They might say, “no, thank you” but they would say no. Even as networks suffer from a lack of advertising, they would turn down that money flat.

And they would claim the ad fell under the advocacy standard, and would deny it flat out.

In a WaPo op-ed from Sunday, Frances Kissling (former president of Catholics for Choice) and Kate Michelman (former president of NARAL Pro-Choice America) said that “Instead of trying to block or criticize the Focus on the Family ad, the pro-choice movement needs its own Super Bowl strategy.”

The pro-choice side may need a Super Bowl strategy, but they can’t use the Super Bowl to do so.

The best Super Bowl related example that is comes from 2004, when CBS rejected an ad from the United Church of Christ on inclusiveness. The message of inclusiveness “touches on and/or takes a position on one side of a current controversial issue of public importance” in the eyes of CBS.

Inclusiveness from a left-leaning church wasn’t acceptable in 2004. Naively, you might think that since CBS has changed its position that this opens up the floodgates for similar ads from all elements of the spectrum.

It won’t.

Even though the political message of the ad CBS has agreed to run is from the right — Focus on the Family bought the $2.5 million ad, the amusing irony is that by Tebow’s mother made a pro-choice decision in choosing to keep Tebow. Choice is by definition when you have all options in front of you without interference, such as concerns from the government.

The ad, like Sarah Palin’s public discussion about whether to keep Trig, shows bravery and courage in making the decision to keep the baby. But what those in the religious right forget to mention is that they don’t want you to have the same choice that Palin and Tebow had.

There is no religious conviction in making the tough choice if you don’t have that option of choosing. There is no satisfaction with having made the right choice if you can’t do so.

Kissling and Michelman make one key point in that groups shouldn’t try to block or criticize the ad. And this focus hasn’t been on the ad’s content itself. If we are going to open up the TV advertising world to political/social issues, let’s open it up to all.

CBS had a choice — break its own rules and take the money or stick by the rules. There isn’t an issue as long as the networks have chosen to make ads available to all groups. Until we see that happening, the networks have chosen to only make this choice available  to one side of the equation. Left-leaning groups can’t choose to run an ad, and CBS’ choice is to give no choice from millions of Americans.

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Written by democracysoup

February 5, 2010 at 7:31 am

2 Responses

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  1. […] a comment » There are those who are tempted to be snarky about the Tim Tebow ad and the coverage therein. The coverage after the ad was brodacast focuses on the timidity of the ad. “It wasn’t […]

  2. This is an interesting blog you have her but I can’t seem to find the RSS subscribe button.

    Bernarda Mestas

    March 8, 2010 at 1:06 am


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