Why won't ABC air that clean-energy ad?
ABC refused to air an ad from the Alliance for Climate Protection. How come?
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Ms. Hoover said that the network has written ad guidelines, but that they furnish them only to "relevant parties," a category that doesn't include me.Skip to next paragraph
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So much for that. I then spoke with Brian Hardwick, a spokesman for the Alliance, who told me that ABC says they rejected the ad because of a shot of the US Capitol. He forwarded me part of an email that they say they got from the network on the morning of the day the ad was scheduled to air:
Per our Guidelines, national buildings may be used in advertising provided the depictions are incidental to the advertiser's promotion of the product or service. Given the messages and themes of this commercial, the image of the Capital [sic] building is not incidental to this advertising. Please replace the image with one that is not of another national building or monument. Thank you.
"We thought it was odd," said Hardwick, who noted that the Capitol was only on screen for a second and a half and that no other network rejected the ad for this reason.
But if it really just comes down to a single shot, why not just tweak the ad and resubmit it? Hardwick says that doing so would take money and time, but it also comes down to a matter of creative integrity. "We made it the way we want to show it," he told me.
Fair enough, but it all makes me wonder if the Alliance is engaging in what Canadian anticorporate activist Kalle Lasn calls a "win-win strategy." In his 2000 book, Culture Jam, Lasn describes how activists can't lose by submitting controversial ads to major networks:
If you are able to buy time and get your ad aired, you win by delivering your message to hundreds of thousands of attentive viewers. If the networks refuse to sell you airtime, you publicize that fact. Now you have a news story (the media are always willing to expose a dirty little secret) that will prompt debate in your community about access to the public airwaves and perhaps draw more attention to your cause than if the networks had simply sold you the airtime in the first place.
Hardwick says that he would really prefer it if ABC just ran the ad they submitted. The publicity resulting from he dispute, he says, "is just a byproduct."
Update: The Alliance's We Campaign blog reiterates Hardwick's point:
It’s true that news and conversation about this controversy raises awareness of our message, and that can sometimes be a kind of advertising in itself. But that was never our intent. We didn’t imagine this ad could be viewed as controversial. And we’d still prefer for the American people to see our ad. We’d still prefer that one of the world’s largest media conglomerates give Americans the opportunity to make up their own minds about the “controversial issue” of repowering America through renewable energy and rejecting our dependence on fossil fuels.