Published on .

Most Popular
It's been coming, of course. Since the dawn of media conglomerates, especially those that mix movie marketers and major ad media (Disney with ABC, Twentieth Century Fox with Fox Broadcasting, Warner Bros. with Time Warner's cable TV and WB Network holdings), there's been a lingering question. Would the parent companies now in control deny or limit rivals' access to their broadcast or cable networks to protect their own entertainment and programming business units?

That day has come. CNN-owner Time Warner's big New York cable system has already refused to carry News Corp.'s rival cable news channel-until a settlement was reached last week. Now comes a case more directly related to advertising and marketing. Walt Disney Co.'s ABC television network has rejected commercials for "Anastasia," the first big-budget animated feature film by News Corp.'s Twentieth Century Fox. Fox had sought to buy time on ABC's new fall prime-time program "Wonderful World of Disney."

The reason for ABC's refusal is plausible: Viewers of the Disney animation show might assume "Anastasia" was also a Disney product. But word then surfaced that Fox might retaliate by blocking TV ads for Disney films from Fox Broadcasting kids programming.

How should media companies draw the line in such situations? The answer is that they must determine when rejecting an ad to protect their own corporate interests clashes with the broad interests of the public. There are ethical obligations a corporate entity assumes when it becomes a media company and joins the community at large.

Top media managers routinely make hard choices on the advertising they accept, and it's hard to fault the specific decision in the "Anastasia" case. But this sort of ad rejection can easily lead to media conglomerates simply engaging in small-minded, competitive tit-for-tats. Other Fox studio movie ads, for example, should have the same access to ABC programming as movies from other filmmakers, providing they meet whatever criteria ABC applies in judging the suitability of ads in the movie category. There can be no doubt that Fox Broadcasting should not reject spots for a Disney movie unless its placement is on a Fox kids show in which the show's content looks too similar to the advertised movie.

It's not hard to see where refusal to carry a competitor's ads can lead if unchecked. Let's hope the day doesn't come when the Disney brass directs ABC to block Burger King spots simply because Disney has contractual movie promotional arrangements with McDonald's.

Honesty is the best policy if "customer satisfaction" is your goal. This little chestnut of new-found wisdom comes from a top United Airlines ad manager, as United bravely seeks to lead its industry toward a breakthrough in price adverising.

What is this revolutionary change? It's stating the full round-trip fare in ads touting prices, rather than "each-way" fares air travelers can't obtain even if they tried.

This is a good idea, and we applaud United and American Airlines, which says it will also change its price ads. But it was a good idea 10 years ago when aggressive state attorneys general first complained that this and other promotional practices involving discount-fares hid the true cost of tickets and the true availability of discounted seats. Even though travelers today are savvier about the airfare ad game, there's no reason for other carriers' ads to keep playing this "each-way" charade.

In this article: