Philip Morris USA has pulled its "Youth Smoking Prevention" campaign-a major effort supported by $100 million in media buys-from the show, a spokeswoman said, "because it is not consistent with our values as a company."
PROMPTED BY LETTER
The company admitted Senior VP-Corporate Affairs Ellen Merlo did "review the content" of the show after receiving a letter from and subsequently speaking to Richardson Schell, headmaster and rector of Kent School, Kent, Conn.
KFC Corp. wrote Mr. Schell that it was "shocked" by the content of the show as outlined in a missive by him to the fast-food chain, and that "our agency [Media Edge, New York] was instructed to take all steps necessary to insure that no KFC advertising ever is placed on this show again."
Mr. Schell, who said he's an Episcopalian priest, started his effort against the show in mid-April.
"It a moral matter for me," Mr. Schell said. "It's animated and it's on at a time when a lot of kids are watching TV and will be attracted to an animated show."
He has written to more than 20 marketers asking them not to advertise on the show, and gotten positive responses from more than 70% of them, he said.
"Family Guy," also produced by Fox, premiered after the Super Bowl in January and subsequently aired in the coveted spot following "The Simpsons"-Sunday at 8:30 p.m. ET. The series has been renewed for next season, although it has been moved to Thursday at 9 p.m.
NO ORGANIZED GROUP
Mr. Schell, who said he's not part of any organized group, has been savvy enough to realize marketers respond to pressure groups. So his missives to advertisers come under a letterhead that reads ProudSponsorsUSA.
However, he readily concedes there is no such organization and that he's acting on behalf of himself alone. He said he has not actively protested any other TV show.
AKIN TO RAKOLTA'S EFFORTS
The effort is reminiscent of the campaign shepherded by Terry Rakolta, a Bloomfield Hills, Mich., homemaker who contacted advertisers in an unsuccessful effort to get Fox's "Married With Children" canceled.
Mr. Schell said a number of advertisers, including KFC, Sprint Corp. and The Gap, told him their spots on the show ran as make-goods or because the series was a midseason replacement airing during the time slot they had purchased.
All four advertisers confirmed those explanations to Ad Age, and confirmed they were no longer airing ads on the series.
"If there is a show with questionable content, and 'Family Guy' had been a heavily promoted show, so it didn't sneak on the air, there is no excuse for agencies and advertisers to claim they are surprised by what's in it," said one agency media buyer.
A Sprint spokesman said it received a "significant enough number" of letters complaining about the show's content that executives, after reviewing the show themselves, decided to stop the advertising.
Fox didn't return calls.