By agreeing to show an “uplifting” antiabortion ad and rejecting a Super Bowl-style ad (read: funny) for a gay dating site, CBS is already feeling the effects of its decision to air “advocacy” ads for the first time on Super Sunday.
Working in a tough advertising climate, CBS surprised many Americans by explaining a new policy on advocacy ads after news emerged that it had agreed to show an antiabortion ad featuring Florida QB Tim Tebow and his mom, Pam.
That decision caused an uproar over the ad itself, the sponsor (the conservative organization Focus on the Family), and the prospect of politics seeping into a three-hour block where most Americans are trying to escape from the daily grind.
CBS opened itself to criticism
But after CBS on Friday rejected a potentially controversial ad from ManCrunch, a Toronto-based gay dating site, it opened itself up for criticism – which came fast and furious. The so-called “man-kiss ad” shows two football fans touching hands over a bowl of potato chips, which then leads, as the ad implies, to a make-out session.
"CBS has a problem when they do something like this at the same time as they allow an anti-gay group like Focus on the Family to place ads during the Super Bowl,” says Jarrett Barrios, president of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD.) “This network should come clean to the public about what's going on because this seems to be a homophobic double standard."
Pop culture expert Robert Thompson at Syracuse University agrees that CBS has opened itself up for criticism by accepting advocacy ads. But the network is also right, he says, when pointing out there’s a key difference between an advocacy ad from Focus on the Family and a commercial ad by Man Crunch.
Sources tell the Hollywood Reporter that the network felt the site was trying to generate free publicity by the “tried-and-true" method of submitting an ad they know will be rejected.
'Ridiculous Super Bowl stunts'
Indeed, “it’s the time of year for ridiculous Super Bowl stunts, in which companies claim they've been censored by the hosting broadcast network and then laugh as gullible media outlets run with the story, but never checking to see if the ads were censored – or even if the company had the money to run it in the first place,” agrees Ad Age.
A ManCrunch.com spokesperson said the company had offered to pay for the $2.6 million ad slot up front. CBS tells Entertainment Weekly the network has no record of such an offer.
Essayist Michael Rowe on Huffington Post sides with ManCrunch’s assertion that CBS is discriminating against progressive ideas.
“The problem is not with the quality (or not) of the ManCrunch ad,” he writes. “The network's rejection of it merely highlights the obvious: that CBS had already decided where its ethical priorities lay when they accepted the commercial from Focus on the Family last week. Those priorities clearly don't lie with women, or with progressives, or with any group that happens to find itself on Focus on the Family's no-fly list.”
But CBS has turned down other ads this year, including a racy one from GoDaddy.com, which stars a football player who becomes a fashion designer. “This ad has the potential to offend viewers,” CBS wrote to GoDaddy.com.
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