Shocker! 'Family Guy' Is Not Family-Friendly Entertainment

Branded entertainment can go wrong -- even before it starts.

Microsoft was all set to use that cool Fox animated show "Family Guy" to launch its new Windows 7 software, with a special  called "Family Guy Presents: Seth & Alex's Almost Live Comedy Show." The show was supposed to air on Nov. 8 during the big November sweep period without commercial interruption and with -- no surprise, here -- branded messaging about Windows 7 scattered throughout.

But wait. Somebody got pissed. Apparently, Microsoft thought  "Family Guy" was all about advertising-friendly family entertainment -- while the special supposedly included funny bits on deaf people, the Holocaust, feminine hygiene and incest.

According to a Microsoft spokesperson, it soon became clear the content was not a good fit with the Windows 7 brand. "We initially chose to participate in the Seth and Alex variety show based on the audience composition and creative humor of 'Family Guy,"" according to a reported statement.



Didn't the folks at Microsoft realize this series has made fun of just about everything -- some would say inappropriately -- from body parts, Jews, Christians and homosexuals, to the assassination of a U.S President, just to name a few subjects?

This was no simple product placement deal. It included licensing, merchandising, extensions on Fox Sports, FX, Fox Sports on MSN and Hulu, as well as a 12-week college tour that would allow students try out Windows 7.

As I've said before, product placement isn't about being "organic." For the most part, that's a myth. Product placement is actually about letting go.

TV producers' first charge is to create stuff people want to watch. And, with comedies, that includes having fun at the expense of consumer brands. Take a look at what "30 Rock" does with its product placement deals.

I can't imagine that Seth MacFarlane's powerful "Family Guy" TV show wouldn't take some shots at, say, a big computer company during an entire episode where a product needs to be worked into a good chunk of its content.

But brand managers can get too close to their product. Any negativity attached to their brand makes their hair stand up on on end. Better to just shout out a product's name on a TV show over and over again.

Give marketers what they want.

8 comments about "Shocker! 'Family Guy' Is Not Family-Friendly Entertainment".
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  1. Chris Minto from Next Level Summit, October 27, 2009 at 11:42 a.m.

    I find it frightening that it took Microsoft as long as it did to realize that perhaps "Family Guy" is not an appropriate show to be using to help Launch their Windows 7.

    I love family guy, but if I were on that marketing team the first thing that would pop into my mind is the complete inappropriateness of branding my new software with a show that mocked Breast Cancer on an episode that was aired during breast cancer awareness month!

    Wake up Microsoft!

  2. Peter Martin from, October 27, 2009 at 11:44 a.m.

    Possibly one of the funniest examples of marketing competence I've read since this morning's Dilbert.

    Only this one was... no, Stewie, stop... Oh, I'm cracking up...

  3. Aaron B. from, October 27, 2009 at noon

    Sponsoring online video and the 12-week college tour would be perfect for product promotion alongside a series like FAMILY GUY... which thrives on the viral nature of its offensiveness (and, subsequently, is a huge draw among college students). I'm sure someone deserves to be smacked on the back of the head for planning some of this... but there are some facets to the deal that do make a lot of sense.

  4. Bryan Cox from Cox Marketing, October 27, 2009 at 1:24 p.m.

    I can't believe that Microsoft or the people that work there, wouldn't know anything about "Family Guy" or what's on TV for that matter. "Microsoft has had their finger on the pulse of what people want and what they watch on"
    T I C (Tongue in Cheek) Maybe that's not where they had their finger
    Let me quote C.Minto...WAKE UP MICROSOFT!!
    Bryan Cox

  5. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, October 27, 2009 at 1:34 p.m.

    As been quoted before "You can't make this stuff up" Maybe that new Apple TV spot has got it right about trusting Microsoft to get their system together this time. And yes, PM, Dilbert is perfect.

  6. Rodney Brooks from ToTouch One, Inc, October 27, 2009 at 2:23 p.m.

    Nobody at Microsoft or their agency has ever seen this show before? Hard to believe this would go this far into the process before being stopped. Maybe if they looked up from coding to see what people at really like, we would "Trust" them.

  7. Brian Jackson from PREMIER MARKETING SERVICES, INC, October 27, 2009 at 2:43 p.m.

    First things first. Consumers don't like advertising. So any advertiser who starts out with the premise "I want people to like my advertising" has already shot themselves in the foot. The only advertising likely to be liked is that which is easily ignored and forgotten. Negative comments or reactions to advertising mean only that PEOPLE NOTICED AND REMEMBERED IT. And nothing else makes any difference.

    Second: people like "Family Guy". Lots of them. Look at what happened when the first season was released on DVD. You people who are carrying on about "appropriate" are projecting your sophisticated tastes on the audience instead of accepting the audience as it is. The most popular cable show is "WWF Raw". You gonna make fun of the millions who watch it or get your clients' hands in their pocketbooks?

    The audience alone determines what is appropriate, not the advertisers or their agencies.

  8. Lee Morrow from Media Buying Academy, October 28, 2009 at 9:03 a.m.

    Microsoft is so right to pull out of that sponsorship. The environment in which your ad is seen plays a definite role in how the brand is seen.

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