In Search of a Sponsor for a Less-Annoying ABC

Media Guy Smells a Fantastic New Marketing Niche

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Forget Mel Gibson for a moment. He can -- indeed, he has to -- keep apologizing until he's blue in the face. I'm still waiting for an apology from ABC for the weasely way it disassociated itself from the a-hole. Last week, in announcing that it was dropping its planned Gibson-produced Holocaust miniseries, the network conspicuously said nothing about his recent arrest and Jew-hating rant. Instead, ABC spokeswoman Hope C. Hartman issued this terse statement: "Given that it's been nearly two years and we have yet to see the first draft of a script, we have decided to no longer pursue this project with Icon [Gibson's production company]."
Mel Gibson
Mel Gibson Credit: AP

Oy vey.

The same day ABC dropped Mel, ran a story titled "Is There Truth in a Drunken Man's Words?" and subtitled "Does Mel Gibson's Alleged Drunken Tirade Give Insight Into His True Feelings?"

Um, does an ABC spokesperson's sober flakery give insight into her true feelings? I mean, surely Hope C. Hartman really wanted to say that Gibson's spectacular implosion freaked out everyone at ABC, and that the network no longer wanted to work on a Holocaust project with someone who had revealed himself to be a raving anti-Semite. Instead, ABC suggested that the only issue at hand was commerce: Gibson hadn't delivered product.

Of course, since ABC parent Disney announced its intentions to go ahead with the release of Gibson's latest big-screen epic, "Apocalypto," ABC had to bite its tongue. In other words, the only real issue at hand really is commerce -- because Gibson has delivered other product whose potential blockbusterhood could directly/indirectly benefit ABC.

A Gibson-produced Holocaust miniseries, of course, was an appalling idea from the get-go, given the way that Gibson positioned and marketed his "Passion of the Christ," and the fact that he's never condemned the views of his father, a notorious Holocaust denier. Last week's turn of events just goes to show how unbelievably difficult it is to kill horrible ideas (and sideline horrible people) in Hollywood -- or in any other media realm, for that matter. After a brief Mea Culpa Tour, watch for Mel's big comeback.

Pay Us or Else ... Everyone Continues to Suffer!
How curious that last week Hearst announced a deal with Philips Electronics for a $2 million sponsorship of no-subscription-card issues of Redbook, O At Home, Weekend and House Beautiful. The tagline of the promotion will be "Simplicity is not having subscription cards fall out of your magazine." The implicit message is, "Meanwhile, our other titles will be just as un-simple and maddening as ever!"

I smell a fantastic new marketing niche: Henceforth, advertisers will increasingly pay various media companies to suck less, if only briefly. Consider some possible upcoming announcements:

  • CBS could seek a sponsor to preempt Katie Couric's just-announced prime-time anchor debut as host of a 9/11 special. "The right sponsor," a CBS spokesperson would intone, "could garner enormous good will by saving our viewers from the cynical spectacle of our news division trotting out Katie at Ground Zero to give her instant gravitas."

  • The New York Times could seek a sponsor to kill off its "Metropolitan Diary" column for four consecutive weeks. "By underwriting the temporary eradication of this column filled with annoyingly precious poetry written by senior citizens and dubious stories of adorably precocious tots saying the darnedest things," a Times sales executive could announce, "a cutting-edge brand will gain a halo effect that'll last all month."

  • Clear Channel Outdoor could announce plans to accept sponsorship money to not put up billboards. Calvin Klein, for instance, could achieve off-the-charts buzz by announcing a $5 million deal to refrain from erecting traffic-stopping billboards of male underwear models with improbably bulgy bulges. "Calvin Klein has reached new heights of minimalism with its new no-billboard billboard campaign," Advertising Age could write.

    ~ ~ ~ Got ideas for other such less-is-more campaigns? Send them to [email protected] You may be quoted in a future column -- and you'll be eligible to win a bag of Media Guy swag.
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