Putting Lipstick On A Pig

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the estimated number of new AIDS diagnoses in the U.S. from 2000 through 2005 increased by 17% among women and 16% among men. The CDC further estimates 19 million new sexually transmitted infections per year nationally - and direct medical costs associated with STDs in the U.S. estimated at up to $14.1 billion annually.

These figures and their impact are well understood by the people who are behind the Trojan condom brand, and their latest piggish advertising campaign and the accompanying site seek to explain Trojan's solution to this ongoing public health scenario.

When pigs fly, said the ABC, CBS, and NBC affiliates in Pittsburgh - all of whom rejected the Trojan television spots, echoing an earlier rejection from CBS and Fox nationally. Ray Carter, general manager of WPXI, the NBC affiliate in Pittsburgh, told The New York Times that the spot was "not one we thought was appropriate for the market."



Can media executives deem what messaging is or is not appropriate for an entire population in a given market? While media properties have the right to protect their audience from tasteless advertising creative or fictional claims in advertisements, Pittsburgh features a 33% composition of people aged 15-34, according to the 2000 census. Advertisements from condom manufacturers can have direct health benefits to this active demographic - and the Trojan campaign is no different, as it is ultimately about responsible intimacy planning.

In a press release, Michael Weinstein, president of AIDS Healthcare Foundation, finds hypocrisy in the position of the television networks and affiliates. "On any given day or night, Viagra and other erectile dysfunction ads also run regularly on these networks," he stated.

The site - which offers video testimonies from numerous public health authorities, along with the controversial spot itself - has attracted more than 400,000 unique users since June 18. "As a condom manufacturer, we view ourselves as a steward of public health," said Jim Daniels, VP of marketing on the Trojan brand, in a recent Marketing Daily interview. "In our research, only one in four sex acts involves condom use, which is a very low rate versus the rest of the Western world."

With national condom usage at just 25% and sexually transmitted infections - including AIDS - on the rise in the U.S., it could be argued that denial of these messages from reaching the most vulnerable young audiences is irresponsible. While media properties certainly have the right to approve or disapprove certain creative messages, controlling the spread of communicable disease should supersede the individual moral platforms of TV network and affiliate management - many of whom are well beyond the Trojan target audience.

The outright rejection by the management at Pittsburgh's television affiliates may be a matter for the FCC. These decisions on what is appropriate or inappropriate with regard to responsible sexual activity certainly transcend one television market.

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