"KFC has strict guidelines regarding the type of programming during which our commercials air and we continually monitor the content of those programs to ensure they meet our guidelines," KFC spokesman Rick Maynard said in an e-mail statement. "Our media department has been in touch with the network regarding '90210,' and we are closely monitoring its content going forward to determine if additional action is required on our part, including potentially pulling our advertising from the program."
In an early vote of confidence for the series, on Monday the CW said it would pick up "90210" for a full season, citing the success of its two-hour premiere in early September. The debut of the show, which sports a brand new cast of teens attending West Beverly High as well as some characters from the original series, attracted 12.7 million viewers and was the network's highest-rated series premiere among women 18 to 34, adults 18 to 34 and adults 18 to 49. The most recent telecast reached 3.3 million viewers.
A CW spokesman declined to comment on KFC's statement.
Yum Brands spent about $5.42 million on the CW between Jan. 1 and Sept. 14 of this year, according to TNS Media Intelligence. All of that came from spending on KFC. In 2007, Yum Brands spent about $12.4 million behind advertising for KFC and Taco Bell, TNS reported. The network's top advertiser in 2007 was Procter & Gamble Co., which spent $77.2 million on the CW that year, according to TNS.
While relatively tame when compared with daytime soap operas or certain cable offerings, the debut episode of "90210" featured one male character involved in a sexual situation while sitting in a car outside his high school.
The drama has drawn the scrutiny of the Parents Television Council advocacy group, which has been involved in a public spat with the CW network since the launch of the network's buzzy drama "Gossip Girl." The CW has even gone so far as to use some of the PTC's disapproving words ("Mind-blowingly Inappropriate") in a poster promoting the program.
The PTC has asked members to visit local franchises and other outlets belonging to corporate sponsors, Tim Winter, the group's president, said in an interview. The sexual scene in the program's debut episode represented a "very shocking event in a show that was marketed to children," he said. "You have a lot of big-name family brands that were advertising in that show."
According to several media buyers, advertisers have been examining programs more thoroughly this fall, with several of the more conservative types asking to monitor the programs on an episode-by-episode basis.
"There's more scrutiny. Everyone is looking at everything much closer," said one buyer. This summer, advertisers did not put a lot of support behind CBS's "Swingtown," which featured married couples having sexual encounters with people who weren't their spouses. CBS ran direct-response ads during some of the program's commercial breaks.