'Kid Nation': Heavy on Tears, Light on Ads

No Commercials for First 38 Minutes of Premiere

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Did CBS sell enough ads for the first episode of "Kid Nation" to warrant giving out a $20,000 gold star to one of the program's young participants? The premiere episode of the show, which aired Sept. 19, ran for more than an hour and contained just around six minutes' worth of commercials. The first ad didn't run until after 38 minutes of "Kid Nation" had aired.
Jimmy decides he wants to go home.
Jimmy decides he wants to go home. Credit: CBS

The show ran until about 9:06 p.m. Eastern time and included only three ad breaks, which contained commercials for films from Time Warner's Warner Bros. and News Corp.'s 20th Century Fox; Sears; Chattem's Icy Hot pain reliever; Combe's Vagisil; Capital One; and L'Oreal's Maybelline cosmetics. (The marketers didn't respond to calls seeking comment.)

Different next week?
CBS has employed the strategy of running a longer-than-usual program with a lighter-than-normal commercial load in the past, according to a CBS spokeswoman, and has used it with "Survivor," she said. "Kid Nation" will run in its normal length next week and will contain a "regular and full" commercial load, said Shannon Jacobs, the spokeswoman. She declined to name next week's advertisers and declined to comment on whether the marketers last night had appeared as part of any special ad deals.

"Kid Nation" has stirred controversy in recent weeks, as critics wondered how the 40 children who took part in the program -- which puts the youngsters through their paces as they try to create a society in the New Mexico frontier town of Bonanza -- were treated during production. Many of CBS's top advertisers indicated to Advertising Age before the program launched that they were taking a pass on the program.

For its part, CBS screened the show for media buyers and advertisers, as well as schoolchildren. The network has not made the program available for viewing by the media, as is the norm.

The first episode of "Kid Nation" did feature kids crying, falling down, bullying each other, dithering about whether to opt for multiple outhouses or a big-screen TV, cooking biscuits from scratch and arguing among themselves. A few of the tykes were homesick. But only one 8-year-old, Jimmy, opted to leave the show near the end of the episode last night. Meaning next week, there's still 39 children left to fight, cry and complain.
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