While they bring in high ratings, reality programs have posed a problem for some mainstream advertisers preferring to showcase their products in a squeaky-clean environment. The 48-member forum, which meets in conjunction with the ANA Television Advertising Forum March 13 in New York, was initially formed to find safe havens in scripted programs.
Forum member Andy Jung, senior director-advertising and media services for Kellogg Co., said "there is a clear door open for reality-based programming that would meet Family Friendly guidelines." He stressed that the group is not turning from scripted programming, but said "it will be interesting to see how the recent trend toward reality-based, shorter lead-time programming will affect general script development." He pointed to "Moolah Beach," a kid-friendly version of "Survivor" that aired on News Corp.'s Fox, as an example of a family-friendly reality-based program.
Brad Simmons, VP-media, North America for Unilever and co-chair of the forum, said he is not aware of any reality concepts currently under consideration. But, he said, "reality concepts and family-friendly programming are not mutually exclusive."
The group, operating under the auspices of the Association of National Advertisers, has shepherded hit scripted TV shows like "Gilmore Girls" on AOL Time Warner's WB and this season's "8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter" on Walt Disney Co.'s ABC. Six programs with the forum's stamp of approval have made it on air since the group was formed.
"We've had a tremendous hit rate," said Mr. Simmons. "It's important to have places we go with our advertising that aren't controversial and don't run us up against questionable content."
Forum members contribute to the script development fund, which, collectively, may allocate up to $2 million to script a program's entire season, according to one executive. Besides ABC and WB, participating networks now include Viacom's CBS and General Electric Co.'s NBC. Last year, the group designated 40 shows as family-friendly.
Other shows to come out of the forum include last year's "Raising Dad," on the WB, canceled midseason; "Family Affair," also on the WB; "Veritas: The Quest," an ABC midseason adventure series; and "American Dreams," NBC's `50s family show.
"They are perfect partners because they don't get involved in the process," said Jed Petrick, president-chief operating officer of The WB. "They don't try to influence programs."
Some 12 to 13 executives are involved in script-selection process, according to Mr. Simmons. But one network executive believes the driving force behind the script approvals is narrower. He said the primary group includes J. Andrea Alstrup, the other co-chair of the Forum, and corporate VP-advertising, Johnson & Johnson; Bill Cella, chairman of Magna Global USA; Mr. Simmons; and Marc Goldstein, president-CEO, MindShare North America.
contributing: jack neff