The liberal United Church of Christ had some of its commercials rejected yesterday by CBS and NBC. The commercial's message was that while they accept all kinds of people into their church, others do not.
Both CBS and NBC rejected that commercial - but it took other versions of it. Broadcast networks have had a long-time policy of not accepting advocacy advertising. The controversial spot has run on a number of cable networks.
Any savvy TV marketer knows the networks long-standing policy of rejecting advocacy ads. The United Church of Christ looking to gain more members couldn't lose in this marketing effort. Either it would get the benefit of running the ads, or would complain to the press that the networks rejected them, which is always a good TV business story.
While many daily newspapers wrote about this, only The New York Times correctly assessed that the church could have been looking for publicity. They got it.
In this perfect political climate where morality issues reign high, a commercial about the inclusion or exclusion of gays is a lightning rod. The United Church of Christ played this perfectly - whether to tout their own moral high ground or for its own business sense of growing membership.
Many critics accused CBS and NBC of hypocrisy --- that since they schedule TV shows that include gay characters, they should include these ads. But considering the political climate that exists about moral values, these networks had no choice but to reject them.
Is this good business sense for the networks? In terms of actual dollars, this may not be the right time. The fourth quarter scatter market is particularly soft and both networks don't like to turn away money when many are not going to meet their quarterly goals.