Lowe's, Tyson End Ads in 'Desperate Housewives'

Cite Content Inconsistent 'With Core Values'

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Lowe's Home Improvement and Tyson Foods today said they will no longer run advertising in ABC's hit series Desperate Housewives because of content concerns.

'Desperate Housewives' is ABC's top-rated show.

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Spokespeople for both companies told AdAge.com they felt the show was not consistent with the kind of programming they want their products associated with.

'The viewers speak'
Geri Wang, senior vice president of ABC TV Networks prime-time sales, declined to comment on Lowe's and Tyson Foods' actions. "We don't comment on individual clients," she said. "There is overwhelming demand for the show, and the viewers speak for themselves."

Desperate Housewives is a drama about four women trying to solve the mystery of their friend's suicide. It is ABC's top-rated show and came in fourth place among households for the week of Oct. 4-10, watched by 13.2 million U.S. homes.

According to executives close to the situation, ABC has doubled the price of a 30-second ad in the show from around $156,000 to around $300,000 because demand for the show is so high among ad buyers.

The actions by Lowe's and Tyson Foods is the latest in a growing string of retreats by major marketers from broadcast programming deemed to raise issues of taste or decency. The Ad Age Madison & Vine newsletter reported yesterday that S.C. Johnson pulled its sponsorship from the cross-dressing reality show He's a Lady just days before the program's Oct. 19 premiere.

Record indecency fine
Earlier this week, the Federal Communications Commission levied its highest fine yet -- $1,183,000 -- for a single incident of indecency against the Fox Broadcasting Co. for airing an episode of Married by America that featured topless dancers.

Last month, the Family Friendly Programming Forum, a group of more than 40 of the country's largest marketers, withdrew its funding for NBC's Father of the Pride, a cartoon series whose racy content surprised many industry observers.

Lowe's and Tyson Foods were both targets of a public lobbying effort by the Tupelo, Miss.-based American Family Association, which organized a similar national effort against S.C. Johnson's He's a Lady sponsorship. The AFA encourages members to send e-mails on a weekly basis to marketers that advertise in shows it deems inappropriate for family viewing.

Chris Ahearn, a spokeswoman for Lowe's, declined to say specifically what was wrong with Desperate Housewives, but said: "We have a strict advertising policy against running in shows that contain gratuitous sex or violence and our advertising agency uses them. We are no longer advertising again in the show. This is one that fell through the cracks in terms of being evaluated. It doesn't meet our guidelines."

Co-branded Lowe's/Whirlpool ad
Ms. Ahearn confirmed that the company had received e-mails from the AFA. Lowe's ran a co-branded spot with Whirlpool in Desperate Housewives.

Gary Mickelson, a spokesman for Tyson, based in Springsdale, Ark., explained that its advertising would no longer appear in the show, even though it had already aired spots. "We don't believe it is consistent with our core values," Mr. Mickelson said. But he explained that the company's advertising strategy was always to take spots in the first and second episodes in new shows. "We're now looking for new opportunities."

A press statement from the AFA also singled out ConAgra as another marketer it believed was no longer advertising in the show. A ConAgra spokesman said the company had taken a spot in the first week of the show but cited company policy against revealing future advertising schedules.

'Obsessed with sex'
Randy Sharp, director of special projects at the AFA, explained the reasoning behind the anti-Housewives campaign. "We are very concerned about the show because it depicts women in a negative light. They're obsessed with sex, and they want to have a catfight over every available man? What really bothered me was the married woman going over to have sex with a young boy." He said the members were concerned about their children being exposed to such material and that it was impossible to monitor youngsters' viewing activities 24 hours a day.

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