The ad in question, "Repower America," takes a decidedly subversive tone and indicates a marked shift in strategy from a campaign that launched in April with warm and fuzzy spots calling for bipartisan action on climate change, pairing strange political bedfellows such as Nancy Pelosi and Newt Gingrich.
Gore's 'civil disobedience'
The We Campaign had asked to run the ad on ABC's "20/20" Sept. 26 episode. ABC informed the group it would not air the ad one day after Al Gore, speaking at the Clinton Global Initiative, called for "civil disobedience" to stop the construction of new coal plants. At that meeting, the former vice president also decried the "half a billion dollars' worth of advertising by the coal and gas industry," according to press reports.
The "Repower America" ad began airing Sept. 26 on other networks and cable news channels, including CBS, CNN, MSNBC and Fox News, according to Gore's group, the Alliance for Climate Change.
ABC defended its move not to air the spot on "20/20," citing its policy on controversial issue advertising. "All of our advertising is reviewed on a case-by-case basis, and the context of this particular ad was determined not to be acceptable," said Julie Hoover, a network spokeswoman, who read from a prepared statement.
When asked for a copy of the network's policy, Ms. Hoover said she needed to check if it was public and that it was "unlikely" media could view a copy.
Instead of "Repower America," the network ran the campaign's "Free Us" spot, created by Interpublic Group of Cos.' Martin Agency, Richmond, Va., which was tapped as the campaign's agency of record for the estimated $100 million campaign in September 2007.
Ad from Glover Park Group
The ad deemed too controversial by ABC is the first from Glover Park Group, a major Washington advertising and public-relations shop, whose founding partner, Carter Eskew, served as Al Gore's chief strategist in his 2000 failed presidential bid.
In a statement sent by ABC to the We Campaign, the network asked that a brief image of the Capitol building be removed.
"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 building is not incidental to this advertising. Please replace the image with one that is not of another national building or monument," read the statement from ABC sent to the group Sept. 25 and provided to Advertising Age by Giselle Barry, director of communications for the Alliance for Climate Protection.
ABC's Ms. Hoover would not confirm the request. "We keep correspondence with our clients confidential," she said.
It's the first time the campaign has faced any pushback for its ads, Ms. Barry said, who added that the requested changes were not made because it "would have required additional work to do it and there was just no need to."
In response to the request from ABC, the group submitted a letter to Anne Sweeney, president, Disney-ABC Television Group, that read, in part: "This advertisement simply points out that the massive spending by oil companies on advertising and lobbying is a primary reason our nation hasn't switched to clean and renewable sources for our energy."
Ms. Sweeney did not respond to the letter, Ms. Barry said.
Since going public with ABC's refusal to run the ad, 171,534 of the We Campaign's 1.6 million members have e-mailed a form letter from the group's website to the network, which reads: "The ad has the simple message that massive spending on ads by oil and coal companies -- ads which your network airs -- is a key reason our nation hasn't switched to clean, renewable sources for energy."
Ms. Barry said the group decided to go public with ABC's refusal to run the ad after watching the TV commercials aired during presidential debates Tuesday night on the network.
"The debate coverage on all of the channels looked like they were sponsored by carbon-based companies. Exxon. Chevron, they were all over the place," she said. "It begged for action."