Pillsbury re-evaluates ads on violent shows

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Marketer may shift media buying after exec's death

Pillsbury Co. is rethinking the type of TV shows it advertises on following the death of one of the company's marketing executives.

Anne Barber Dunlap, 31, marketing manager for refrigerated baked goods, was found dead in the trunk of her car at a Minneapolis Kmart on Jan. 1. A $75,000 reward fund has been established, sponsored by friends and companies, including Pillsbury.

Ms. Dunlap had worked at Pillsbury since the mid-'80s, and had been noted for her work on the Totino's pizza brand.

At her funeral Jan. 6, a Pillsbury executive reportedly said that as a result of her tragic death, the company will consider shifting its media buying away from TV shows with violent content.


A company spokesman denied formal policy changes are underway, but said Pillsbury is unofficially exploring its options.

"We have a policy in place [right now] that screens for the appropriateness of TV programming for our products," the spokesman said. "Some marketing team members are holding internal discussions about that policy ... and whether the company should [revise] its policy regarding violence on TV shows."

Pillsbury, whose buying is handled by Leo Burnett USA, Chicago, declined to elaborate on the current guidelines.

The unit of Grand Metropolitan spent $44 million on advertising for the first nine months of 1995, according to Competitive Media Reporting. About $14 million went toward products under the Pillsbury banner, with the remainder earmarked for other food brands, including Green Giant and Totino's.

While it's unclear how much of those outlays went to programs with violent content, the company is known to support at least two talk shows, "Jenny Jones" and "Ricki Lake," that have come under fire for incendiary topics.

If Pillsbury should limit support to certain talk shows, it would join a growing bandwagon of heavy-spending advertisers refusing support for more inflammatory ones. Procter & Gamble Co., Mars Inc. and Kraft Foods recently said they are taking new measures to avoid some programs.


The Pillsbury executive who commented at Ms. Dunlap's service, however, did not mention talk shows specifically as a target.

Mrs. Dunlap had been with Pillsbury since the mid-'80s, working in the company's Kalamazoo, Mich., pizza product department, and more recently, as marketing manager for refrigerated dough brands.

Friends and co-workers at Pillsbury remember her as "especially bright and alert ... always willing to jump into a project and lend a hand."

She and her husband, Brad Dunlap, were living with his parents in Minneapolis while the couple were building a new home in Medina, Minn.

Ms. Dunlap was believed to have been shopping at the Mall of America. She died of multiple stabs and cuts to her head and neck.

Copyright January 1996 Crain Communications Inc.

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