Television advertisers not only sell their brand by advertising, they make television itself possible. Absent the pay-per-view formulation of the likes of HBO, or taxpayer-funded PBS, anything viewed on television, both broadcast and cable, requires corporate sponsorship. It follows, then, that these advertisers bear direct responsibility for the double-scoops of raunchy sex, obscene language and graphic violence that are flooding the airwaves, oftentimes aimed directly at children, children whose parents are then expected to purchase their wares at K-Mart.
Here and there one will find the more idealistic advertiser that is troubled by the polluted popular culture it is not just subsidizing, but promoting. It's gratifying to learn that companies here and there will withdraw their sponsorship -- sometimes quite publicly -- when they see the awful content they are buying. Sad to say: When these responsible corporations do withdraw their support, often their money is immediately replaced, and the message of dissent nullified, by other businesses that often eagerly take their place on the latest fashionable bandwagon of sludge.
It's happening right now with the hottest new TV hit, ABC's Sunday night soap opera "Desperate Housewives." After a few over-the-top episodes, Lowe's Home Improvement and Tyson Foods stepped off the sleazy-go-round. Tyson found the show was "not consistent with our core values," and Lowe's said their ad guidelines include avoiding "programming with gratuitous sex and violence." Lowe's even admitted apologetically the show "fell through the cracks in terms of being evaluated."
Good for them. But what happened next? News reports revealed that thanks to boffo ratings, ABC doubled the ad rate it charges for 30 seconds from $156,000 to $300,000, and other advertisers are lining up to sponsor the program.
K-Mart, Maybelline, Carnival Cruises, Aquafresh toothpaste and 1-800-Flowers.com are some of the corporations eager to underwrite this slimy program. "Desperate Housewives" really should have an even more obvious title, like "Cynical Suburban Sluts." It's just the latest in a long series of shows that aims to pulverize the cartoonish 1950s black-and-white stereotype of "Leave It to Beaver," creating in its ancient wake a catty, snarky, amoral cesspool.