Johnson & Johnson is leading a coalition of top advertisers that intends to use its clout to push for more family-oriented TV programming.
Procter & Gamble Co., Coca-Cola Co., Ford Motor Co. and Sears, Roebuck & Co. have joined J&J to create the Forum for Responsible Advertisers, which will hold its first meeting in New York Sept. 28. The list of participating marketers is expected to grow before then.
Andrea Alstrup, J&J VP-corporate advertising, said the group seeks to "raise awareness levels for more choices that are acceptable family viewing."
She will co-chair the coalition with Bob Wehling, senior VP-worldwide advertising at P&G. Others expected to take leadership roles are Charles Fruit, VP-director of media and presence marketing at Coca-Cola; David Ropes, director-corporate advertising and integrated marketing group at Ford; and John Costello, senior exec VP-marketing at Sears. The executives will begin developing an agenda for the fall meeting in the coming weeks.
Advertisers' concerns about violent and controversial TV programming and magazine content have periodically popped up over the years, although usually on an individual marketer basis. P&G and Chrysler Corp. are among those that have raised concerns about such controversial TV programs as "NYPD Blue," "Nothing Sacred" and "Ellen."
Ms. Alstrup came up with the idea to form a coalition while working on a speech. As she wrote, she began calling colleagues at other companies, and those talks led to the formation of the new group.
TIME TO REVISIT AN IDEA
"This isn't a new idea, [but] I thought the time was right to bring the issue forward again since no progress has been made," she said.
Ms. Alstrup said J&J will continue to support dramatic and mature audience programming. "But I'd like to have more choices that are acceptable family viewing," she added.
"We're not looking at this as `ganging up' but rather a positive cooperation to move things forward."
In her speech, she blasted obvious targets such as the syndicated "Jerry Springer Show," noting it comes on "in many markets ... just in time to welcome the kids home," and Comedy Central's animated cult hit "South Park." She also took aim at shows considered to be more family-oriented, noting that during one episode of ABC's "Home Improvement," the lead character discussed getting a vasectomy to avoid unwanted pregnancies.
Other shows singled out included an ESPN2 morning exercise program, "Sweat," which Ms. Alstrup said features "well-proportioned young women in very snug and scanty exercise outfits," and NBC's "Friends."
A spokeswoman for Coca-Cola said, "This is just an initial meeting to talk about some issues about the rating system and whether it is having an impact on advertising. ... We are in no way committed to working with this group on a long-term basis, but we are interested in attending the first meeting and participating in the discussion."
The coalition will share information from its meetings with broadcast and cable networks, though it has not yet been decided if they will be invited to attend.
Copyright June 1998, Crain Communications Inc.