Garfield's AdReview

By Published on .

A condom commercial in prime time? Not too long ago, the very idea of it was unthinkable.

Never mind a 25-year AIDS epidemic. God did not wish for the purity of "Dynasty," for instance, to be defiled by messages about contraceptives.

And even if God were OK with saving human lives, He had to answer to higher powers: ABC, NBC and CBS, who were not interested in infuriating a vocal minority of Catholics and evangelicals who write letters, stage boycotts and otherwise intimidate the mighty.

Yet somehow two networks have developed a backbone. Granted, they are NBC and WB, which are pretty desperate for revenue, any revenue. Granted, too, this is happening a little late in the game. The information superhighway is quickly overtaking the old media model, particularly among young people. Still, at least for a little while longer, network prime time is where the rubber meets the road. So let us be grateful that, like a murderer offering a deathbed confession, the old model evinced some courage before slipping into oblivion.

The question, upon examination of the actual commercial from Kaplan Thaler, New York, is what took so long? The thing is less a commercial than a PSA, and less about Trojans than safe sex. It begins with onscreen type fading in and out line by nondescript line.

40% of people

who know they are

HIV positive

do not tell their partners.

Here we see a handsome young couple being affectionate with each other, but in no way behaving sexually and showing no skin beyond their pretty faces. Maybe when they get home they'll boink one another silly, but here they're just holding hands in super slow motion beneath more superimposed type:

Other than abstinence

there is only one way

to protect yourself.

Use a condom every time.

Then, the tagline: "Trojan. Pleasure you want. Protection you trust."

Which does acknowledge the shameful secret that sex feels good, but isn't exactly: "Drive her wild!" Nor does it refer in any way to the condom's erstwhile main function of birth control. So, yes, while Satan and his minions in the Fornication Lobby have obviously taken hold of General Electric and Time Warner, they're not being too confrontational about it.

Meantime, PSA-like as the copy may be, Carter-Wallace does its Trojans brand no harm. The commercial certainly reinforces Trojans' market position, because, after all, leaders lead. Where precisely this milestone leads to is another matter altogether.

Now that the prime-time cherry has been broken, the worst fears of the repressive few could well be realized. Neither network TV nor advertising have ever been characterized by restraint and "Drive her wild!" could be the next foil wrapper to drop.

Until now, where good taste is concerned, the means of prevention has been abstinence. Now we have nothing to protect but a thinly stretched membrane of responsibility.

Review 3 stars

Ad: Trojan

Agency: Kaplan Thaler

Location: New York

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