CNN.com, History Channel Nix 'Death Of A President' Ads

The Web sites of CNN and The History Channel have held back from running ads promoting the upcoming U.S. release of "Death of a President," the controversial film depicting the fictional assassination of George W. Bush, according to an interactive agency handling the movie's online campaign.

Jason Klein, co-CEO of Special Ops Media, said that CNN had declined to run the ad this week pending approval of its editorial division--while The History Channel, owned by A&E Networks, refused the ad based on its creative content.

Other prominent political- and news-oriented sites, however, including that of the Fox News Channel, the liberal blog Huffington Post and online magazine Salon, have already begun running ads for "Death of a President," scheduled to open widely this Friday.

"Our strategy in this campaign is to get a marketing message out there that encompasses both ends of the political spectrum to get a dialogue going about the film," said Klein. He noted that in the four years Special Ops has been in business, only rarely has a Web publisher turned down ads on creative grounds. "It was disappointing and surprising," said Klein, whose firm has mostly had entertainment industry clients from Capitol Records to Universal Pictures.

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"Death of a President," a faux documentary by British filmmaker Gabriel Range, has ignited heated controversy since its premiere at the Toronto Film Festival because of its highly charged imagining of the assassination of President Bush in the future. Distributed by Newmarket Films, the film combines newsreel footage, computer-generated images, and staged material in its portrayal of the investigation into the President's murder.

Reviewing the movie for CNN-sister publication Time in September, Richard Corliss wrote that it depicts the assassination "in footage so persuasive that some viewers may need to give themselves a reality-check pinch." He also predicted that in the United States, the film would be "one of those curios that millions of people read about but few pay to see."

Because the film opens this Friday, Special Ops' Klein said waiting possibly weeks for CNN to approve the banner ad was not an option. The ad shows a cropped view of the film's assassination scene, and allows people to click through to view a trailer and marketing site for the movie. Instead, Special Ops scrambled to shift the film's ad buy from CNN and The History Channel sites to the other seven sites already participating in the campaign. "We decided it would be most efficient to increase the impressions on the sites we knew would be good fits for the ad," said Klein. Other sites running the ad include Cnet, Political Wire, The Daily Reel, and The Daily Jolt, an online college network.

He declined to specify the size of the CNN and History Channel ad buys, but said they were less than $10,000 each for week-long, run-of-site placement. In addition to the banner ads, the Special Ops Web campaign for "Death of a President" includes an exclusive preview of the film's first seven minutes on AOL's Moviefone site and home page as well as clips featured on other sites such as Yahoo, movies.com and ifilm. Klein said his firm has also helped to generate editorial coverage on more than 50 political and entertainment blogs.

Spokespersons for CNN and The History Channel could not be reached by deadline Monday night.

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