MEDIA TIGHTEN POLICY ON ADS' VIOLENT THEMES: WB NETWORK, 'SI FOR KIDS' ACT AS SENATORS BLAST TV, MAGAZINES
Responding to growing political sentiment that the media shouldn't run ads for violent, R-rated movies and other products, at least one TV network said it has changed its ad acceptance policy.
"If "Natural Born Killers" came out today, given the content of the film, we would not run an ad for it," said Rick Mather, VP-standards and practices for the WB.
Mr. Mather, however, said he has no problem approving the running of ads for "The Matrix," a current hit film that's fairly violent and has a high body count.
'CRAZY NOT TO RETHINK'
Time Inc.'s Sports Illustrated for Kids said it may revise its ad acceptance policy in light of what happened in Littleton, Colo.
"In the environment we are in today, it would be crazy not to rethink and reconsider what we are doing," said Cleary Simpson, publisher of SI for Kids and SI for Women.
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R., Utah), at a hearing last week of the Senate Commerce Committee, attacked SI for Kids for running an ad for a handheld electronic game -- Resident Evil 2, from Tiger Electronics -- he claimed was inappropriate for that magazine's young readers.
The ad for the game ran in the November 1998 issue of SI for Kids, before the game was rated.
"We were not aware at the time of the ad that the game was rated for adults," said Ms. Simpson. "It's easy to condemn something that happened before a rating . . . but it's also hard to defend the decision to take those [kinds of] ads in this environment today."
SI for Kids follows guidelines from the Children's Advertising Review Unit of the Council of Better Business Bureaus, Ms. Simpson said, and those guides don't address violent imagery directly.
SENSITIVE TO MESSAGES
Mr. Mather said the WB is sensitive to the messages -- ad and otherwise -- in and surrounding its programming. For example, the network has a policy of only running G-rated movie ads in its children's programming.
The WB was criticized by Sen. Joe Lieberman (D., Conn.), who complained that R-rated "slasher" films are heavily advertised on "series that teens watch religiously, such as 'Dawson's Creek' and 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer.' "
CBS said it already has stringent standards about ad acceptance.
"We already have guidelines and ask for several versions of certain kinds of trailers that we can run at different times of the day," said Senior VP Martin Franks.
Sen. Lieberman also attacked ads in gaming magazines.
A print ad for a game called "Carmageddon boasts it is 'as easy as killing babies with axes'; Point Blank claims it is 'more fun than shooting your neighbor's cat'; Die by the Sword instructs, 'Escape. Dismember. Massacre,' " he said at a hearing last week of the Senate Commerce Committee.
At the hearing, senators threatened to request a Federal Trade Commission probe of the marketing of violence-oriented products.
Sen. Hatch last week said he may move to amend a juvenile crime bill being considered by the Senate to require the FTC and Justice Department to probe whether the videogame, music and movie industries are purposely marketing violent materials to kids.
Dale Strang, VP of publisher ZD Game Group, said the games cited were PC games and the ads for them most likely ran in magazines that "do not go to teen-agers. ZD's PC gaming title, Computer Gaming World, has an average reader age of 34."
He said ZD monitors the content of game ads in its magazines, "particularly in our videogaming titles, which have an average reader age of 20. We routinely reject ads that contain violent, profane or sexually provocative content that we believe our readers and/or resellers will find objectionable."