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We have no problem with a prep school headmaster who lobbies advertisers to pull their spots from Fox's "Family Guy." It's a free country, after all. The problem lies with advertisers that ran commercials on the TV show and now profess "surprise" at its content (religious jokes, racial quips and other standard-issue Fox fare).

The headmaster, Richardson Schell, claims he contacted 20 advertisers in the show and that more than 70% reacted positively. One of them, KFC Corp., wrote him to say it was "shocked" by the content he outlined and had ordered its agency "to take all steps necessary" to keep KFC off the show. Philip Morris likewise yanked ads and declared the show "not consistent with our values as a company."

Big marketers advertise in lots of shows, but it's unacceptable for top managers to be clueless about the content of them. And it's hypocritical to know what the shows are like, approve the selections and, out of timidity or cynicism, claim shock when complaints surface, rather than defend the choices.

Since Advertising Age disclosed the story of Headmaster Schell's one-man campaign, Fox has questioned Mr. Schell's "moral" concerns with the show and suggested his grievances lie with its executive producer, who Fox said is a 1991 graduate of Mr. Schell's Kent School. Mr. Schell told The New York Times he had protested the use of the Griffin name for a family in the show because an assistant at the school was named Griffin, but he denied conducting a "personal vendetta."

What's behind the "Family Guy" fuss is less important than marketers accepting responsibility to know the content of the TV shows their advertising supports. Though outside critics may growl and public officials may grumble, it's marketers that have the last word on where the ad dollars go. They should know