General Motors' is leaving the "Survivor" chase--but it has nothing to do with the change in format that will pit teams segregated by race. That's according to GM and CBS. The big question is, will other advertisers make the same decision--and, more important, what will be their reasons.
GM's decision was made three months ago-- before the new format was announced. That puts GM's decision around May of this year, right before the start of the upfront buying season.
GM has been rocked with sales problems for some time--as have many domestic automakers. Its entire logic of spending millions on certain high profile TV shows, like CBS' "Survivor," isn't working from a media and marketing point of view.
One of the key parts of the "Survivor" deal for GM was product integration--but GM says benefits from those branded entertainment efforts have less and less value because, after all, the contestants are on an island and are thousands of miles away from all the conveniences of modern civilization. This includes cars.
Yet, so are a bunch of other products that somehow still make their way to the stranded competitors. Procter & Gamble, for one, offers up a selection of toiletries for winners of certain challenges --soap and shampoo being hot commodities for those down-and-dirty contestants.
By this argument, all big-time sponsors should make the same GM decision. But "Survivor" isn't any show--it's still top-rated, and one of the costliest for advertisers. Big "Survivor" sponsors spend up to $15 million for two 13-week editions of "Survivor" per season; other sponsors can spend nearly $400,000 for a regular season 30-second spot.
On Aug. 24, the day after Mark Burnett decided on the new controversial format, "TV Watch" discussed the possible ripple effort of advertising problems. Whether you believe GM or not, there will be some advertising consequences for "Survivor." The New York Times already says other advertisers won't come back --Coca-Cola, Home Depot, United Parcel Service and Campbell Soup. But what will those advertisers' reasons be? They may never disclose answers.
There'll be more silence, however. This kind of controversial content never is TV fodder for the likes of the TV pressure groups--such as those fronted by Brent Bozell or Rev. Donald Wildmon. That's because they are too busy warning viewers about the language issues of CBS' "9/11" or FX's "Nip/Tuck."
Couldn't some now view "Survivor" as improper content for kids--or adults? TV pressure groups never seem to threaten to boycott advertisers because of a possible racist TV show--not when sex, violence, homosexuality, and salty language can make better headlines.