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GM, Procter & Gamble Pull Ads on BET

Chicago Defender, News Report , Leila Noelliste Posted: Jul 05, 2008

Media watchdogs are declaring it a victory. Black Entertainment Television hasn't said much, and advertisers are mum. What is clear, though, is that at least two top advertisers-automaking giant General Motors and consumer goods manufacturer Procter & Gamble-have pulled ads from BET's Rap City and 106 & Park programs.

Rap City features music videos and artist interviews, and 106 & Park is a top 10 music video countdown. They air at 4 and 5 p.m. (CDT) respectively-attracting a large under-18, after-school audience.

An April Parent Television Council study highlighted high levels of sex, violence and profanity in both programs and reported, among other things, that Rap City featured on average 31.6 instances of sex, 25.3 instances of explicit language and 11.7 instances of violence per hour. The study also examined Sucker Free, a music video countdown that airs on MTV.

Armed with the report, leaders of the Enough is Enough campaign--a movement for corporate responsibility in entertainment--began petitioning BET's top advertisers to pull ads from the programs. Rev. Delman Coates, 35, a Harvard graduate and chairman of the campaign, led the charge.

We let (advertisers) know that the Enough is Enough campaign is seeking to challenge lyrical and visual content, in the hip hop industry in particular, that sexually objectifies Black women, portrays Black men as pimps, gangsters and thugs, glorifies violence, criminal activity, drug use. We made them aware that they're currently running commercials during (programs that feature this content), Coates said. Procter & Gamble and GM quietly pulled ads from Rap City and 106 & Park. Coates claims that Pepsi and Walmart did so also, although the companies did not confirm this with the Defender.

Kelly Cusinato, advertising and marketing communications manager for GM, said that conversations with Coates influenced the company's decision. We asked (BET) for a better monitoring process to allow us as an advertiser to understand which videos were running within an hour-long program, Cusinato said. But BET dismisses the report as misleading and inaccurate.

A BET employee, who asked not to be identified because she is not authorized to speak on behalf of the company, added that the network has not lost any money from the ad withdrawals. She did not say whether new advertisers had popped up in Procter & Gamble and GM's place, but Cusinato confirmed that GM had shifted its advertising to other BET programs, as opposed to abandoning the network altogether.

Despite this, the campaign is pressing forward and shifting its focus to companies that have not pulled advertising because they do not want to lose young African American viewers. Procter & Gamble and GM have been receptive. I'm more worried about the advertisers that haven't; McDonald's, YUM! Brands, Verizon. I'd rather point a finger at them, said Paul Porter, an Enough is Enough campaign supporter and former BET programmer. Porter added that Black media outlets have been hesitant to publicize the ad withdrawals, or apply pressure on remaining 106 & Park and Rap City advertisers.

But a Black advertising analyst, who asked not to be identified because of his relationship to Procter & Gamble and GM, said that many Black media outlets--who have criticized major companies for not advertising enough in Black media in the first place--find themselves in a thorny position.

Other media outlets, such as Black newspapers, have criticized Procter & Gamble and GM for not exercising fairness in the placement of their advertising dollars. They are the two largest advertisers in the country and among the five largest advertisers in the world, he said.

Chicago Defender contributing writers, Jakina Hill, Marissa Lee and Frances Moffett, contributed to this report.

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