The acknowledgment by McDonald's that it protested the ads contrasts sharply with a statement given by BET last Monday commenting on why it pulled down "B-Girls." The network said it had long planned to remove the section and the action was "unrelated" to "any advertiser feedback of which there was none."
McDonald's said in a statement, however, that after it found out about its ads on "B-Girls," it "reached out to BET to express our concerns and to ensure that this placement does not happen in the future." McDonald's, which contacted BET via its media agency, also said that the content "in no way represents the values of our brand."
A BET representative could not be reached Friday for comment, as parent Viacom was holding an executive retreat outside the country.
McDonald's is a long-time advertiser on BET.com and continues to be one, so the company's protest likely prompted BET to reconsider the "B-Girls" section, though the network had denied it.
McDonald's appears to have become aware that its banner ads were running on "B-Girls" after Gina McCauley--who runs a blog that seeks to combat negative images of African-American women--launched a campaign targeting advertisers on Jan. 10. It's not clear whether any other "B-Girls" advertisers such as General Mills or the U.S. Army also complained. Calls seeking comment were not immediately returned.
McCauley, an attorney, has been a frequent critic on WhatAboutOurDaughters.org of BET's programming--arguing that it presents a troubling image of African-Americans. She said Friday that McDonald's protesting "B-Girls" "reaffirms the fact that advertisers are the only ones that can keep BET in line. It only takes one."
The "B-Girls" section encouraged women to send in appealing photos of themselves, with many featuring risqué clothing and suggestive poses. It is unrelated to any BET on-air programming, and was used simply to drive traffic to--and boost interest in--the popular Web site among African-Americans.
For its part, McDonald's did not comment on its protest at first. In an initial statement, the company stood by its "B-Girls" ads, arguing that BET.com targets young adults and provides an "appropriate, relevant" environment for the company's initiatives to reach them.
The "B-Girls" section was a long-time presence on BET.com. Last fall, when BET relaunched its Web site, the section continued to have a prominent position, with a link on the "drop-down" menu that stretched across the home page.
Early last week, after BET had removed "B-Girls," the network said it had been planning to do so for some time as part of a continuing site upgrade. "The move was unrelated to the blogger protests or any advertiser feedback of which there was none," BET said in a statement.
Even with "B-Girls" gone, BET has not moved entirely away from offering photos of scantily clad women on its Web site. The "Shine" section--where McDonald's remains an advertiser--features submitted photos of both men and women. While not all, many women are clad in bikinis and lingerie, and pose in a way that highlights their backsides.
BET representative Jeanine Liburd said early last week that the "Shine" content is "not inappropriate" and not unlike what a contestant might wear on the CW network's "America's Next Top Model" and other places.
"A black woman in her bathing suit is no different than what you would find on SportsIllustrated.com," Liburd said. "('Shine') is not limited to black women in their bathing suits. It's more about men and women's personal style."
SportsIllustrated.com features a section related to the magazine's annual Swimsuit issue.