Commentary

Desperate Housewives, Dispirited Marketers

Can advertisers be so desperately ignorant as to not know what a show entitled "Desperate Housewives" is all about?

This is seemingly what Tyson Foods and Lowe's Home Improvement are saying regarding their separate decisions not to advertise in any future episodes of the new hit ABC show.

They are shocked, according to press stories, knowing networks will program story lines about housewives who have extramarital affairs. My question is not whether they read any scripts - but whether they had read the title of the series. What did they think the show was about - women desperate to find the right floor wax, ginseng, or botox?

Please. For the last five months, there shouldn't have been any surprises about the content in this series. Since the May upfront network meetings, the show has had no secrets, being highly touted and given good critical reviews. Additionally, advertisers have been regularly getting preview tapes of this and other primetime shows for the last 20 years.

Content-wise, women have been having extramarital affairs on primetime TV since daytime soaps in the 1970s, and in primetime since "Knots Landing," "Dallas," and "Dynasty" in the early 1980s.

Like those shows, "Housewives" properly airs in a non-family time slot, on Sunday from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. And, like the other shows, these trysts are never glorified as model behavior. Tyson and Lowe's say they are not "pulling" any advertising - just that they won't be buying future spots. The truth is, both planned to run only one commercial each. So their declarations come with little downside, aside from the publicity kind. (In Lowe's case, the commercial was bought by Whirlpool USA in a co-branded spot).

So why the big stink? It seems these companies were pushed around by a small TV pressure group that doesn't fully represent all TV viewers - and, more importantly, doesn't represent the majority of their customers.

The same millions of viewers who have made this show a hit, are the same viewers who buy drywall from Lowe's, washers from Whirlpool, and chicken breasts from Tyson Foods. Some TV viewers may even have breasts, I'm told.

Shocking. Yet, from my point of view, I saw no breasts in "Desperate Housewives" only the suggestion of breasts. And I've seen these suggestions before - with no fainting spells from advertisers - in daytime soap operas over the last two decades.

"Desperate Housewives" is a good satire about a somewhat stereotypical group of modern day housewives, a romp on the boring nature of domestic goddess-ness. Fanatical anti-TV worshippers sent thousands of e-mails to advertisers, which crashed their servers. In response, advertisers should take the high road and be more reverential toward their media planning and buying beliefs.

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