A Simple Reminder When It Comes to Touchy Content

Marketers Stuck By Rosie, but Sometimes Integrations Can Go Awry

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NEW YORK -- Rosie O'Donnell's departure from "The View" this summer may have ABC scrambling to find a replacement for one of its biggest daytime stars, but more than a few marketers may be breathing a sigh of relief.







Volkswagen was poised to benefit from a branded integration it secured for "Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters" months prior to the unexpected hoopla surrounding the animated film's failed marketing stunt in Boston.






While an endorsement from the controversial talk-show host lifted awareness of companies such as Koosh and Kimberly-Clark, she has never been afraid to use her star power to denounce a brand, either. P&G's Scope learned this the hard way when it issued a press release based on a survey naming Ms. O'Donnell the "least kissable celebrity in America" during her 1990s syndicated talk show; Rosie retaliated with a "Say Nope to Scope" segment.



Didn't scare off advertisers


But unlike Don Imus, whose racially charged comments prompted widespread marketer pullout from his CBS Radio morning show (and MSNBC simulcast), Ms. O'Donnell didn't scare off any advertisers when she made the move to "The View" this season, with the likes of P&G, Unilever and Johnson & Johnson still on board. But Mr. Imus is only one person, while Ms. O'Donnell's hot-button statements were balanced by other opinions on "The View." As a P&G spokesman told Ad Age this week, "We find that 'The View' reaches a great target audience for our brands, and so we continue to advertise on it."



A Kimberly-Clark Corp. spokesman declined to comment to Ad Age on Ms. O'Donnell's contract status or departure from the show. But he did say a multibrand giveaway promotion Kimberly-Clark launched in January that was heavily integrated into "The View" and included a song-and-dance sendoff from Ms. O'Donnell "was one of our most successful promotions ever."



But not all brands have benefited from their association with controversial content -- or marketing.



Movie's marketing snafu


Volkswagen was poised to benefit from a branded integration it secured for "Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film For Theaters" months prior to the unexpected hoopla surrounding the animated film's failed marketing stunt in Boston earlier this year. The German automaker's involvement was part of a scene in the film that spoofed branded entertainment when one of the characters made cheekily blatant reference to a road trip in the new VW Beetle.



A Volkswagen spokesman did not return calls for comment by press time.



But as Cartoon Network's Adult Swim and First Look Studios learned, all the national news coverage made it easy to forget that the Lite Brite boxes were deployed to promote a movie. So when the film was quietly released on 877 screens April 13, it pulled in just $3 million its opening weekend. Considering the late-night cartoon lineup is among the largest draws for the 18-to-24 demo on TV, regularly reaching more than 400,000 viewers, the Boston snafu failed to take the show beyond its core demo.



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Jean Halliday and Jack Neff contributed to this report.
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