The PTC sent letters to both advertisers asking them to withdraw from the show about New York City firefighters, said Melissa Caldwell, senior director-programs of the organization.
When they refused to pull their ads, the PTC issued press releases July 24 and Aug. 3 criticizing Toyota and Chrysler, respectively. The PTC called the show "cultural sewage" in the wake of recent episodes depicting graphic rape and brutal violence.
A Chrysler spokeswoman said Jason Vines, the company's VP-communications, faxed a letter to the PTC on July 31 saying the show was part of the automaker's broad media buys to reach diverse audiences. She said Dodge and Jeep have advertised during the show, but the program is not on either brand's current media schedule.
Mr. Vines' letter went on to say Chrysler Group planned to continue advertising on a diverse range of programming. "We do this not with the intent to offend but with an appreciation for diversity in consumer viewing preferences," he wrote. "It is also important to remember that the American consumer has the ability to turn on or off TV shows, as do PTC members."
Turning off a show isn't the solution, Ms. Caldwell said.
A Toyota spokeswoman said Lexus' media flight on the show has ended, but the Toyota brand continues as an advertiser.
Group turns to its members
Neither carmaker gave the PTC the response it had hoped for, so the group said it plans to contact its 1 million-plus members, hoping to galvanize them to blitz the advertisers with complaints.
The PTC sends letters to all the show's advertisers asking them to withdraw, Ms. Caldwell said. The group won't issue releases about other marketers until they've had a chance to respond. When asked if not responding is an advertiser's best move, Ms. Caldwell said, "Not necessarily. We'll probably step up our efforts."
Dairy Queen and Alltel ended their ad support for "Rescue Me" after being contacted by the PTC, a PTC spokeswoman said.
The PTC "was founded in 1995 to ensure that children are not constantly assaulted by sex, violence and profanity on television and in other media," according to the Chrysler release.
'Advertisers have an obligation'
Citing Nielsen data, Ms. Caldwell said more than 130,000 people under the age of 18 typically watch "Rescue Me," and children as young as 2 are viewers. "We're not saying parents have no obligation. But advertisers have an obligation," she said. "If a line is to be drawn in the sand, it will be by advertisers," because the program won't air without ads.
An FX spokesman said he knew about the PTC's Toyota release but was unaware of the Chrysler release. FX plans to issue a statement as soon as tomorrow morning.
The PTC isn't the first group to target "Rescue Me." T-Mobile said it would pull its ads from the show and FX sibling "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" after Don Wildmon and his American Family Association bombarded CEO Robert Dotson's inbox with e-mails complaining about the programming, Advertising Age reported July 24.