Advertisers didn't need long look at Skins, MTV's new controversial teen drama, before they decided they had seen enough. Taco Bell was the first brand to flee from the show's firestorm, citing a poor "fit for the brand."
The sponsor exodus continued all week; before the second episode aired last night, General Motors, H&R Block, Wrigley, Subway and Schick all joined Taco Bell in its ad embargo of the show. Even tougher to swallow for MTV, these brands wanted absolutely no part of Skins despite its incredible draw for a cable series debut. Skins opened to 3.26 million viewers and set a network record for volume of its core 12-34 demographic for a debut. Naturally, this caught the eye of the Parents Television Council and they're understandably worried.
Although, I believe the fear surrounding Skins is a bit misplaced. Rather than trying to convince the advertisers to that they're somehow taking a moral highroad by shunning Skins' unholy suggestive content in an effort to get the show pulled from television, perhaps they should be more concerned with fixing the real problems. Skins' drug and sexuality laced plot is popular with pre-teens, teens and young adults because it is actually relevant to them in some ways, even if not the sensationalized way depicted to create an interesting program. That's why people should be fearful. It's a reality that remains even if Skins does not; some teens will have to face similar issues and choices as the characters on the show.
I'd argue that we cannot protect them from this. It's parental instinct to protect your kids, no matter what age they are. However, the Skins demo has reached or is close to an age where they can no longer be protected from all the harsh realities of the world. Furthermore, protecting children from a television show may be a bit irrational. It's especially futile once network executives discover an audience of 3.26 million young consumers. They can get over looking like jerks to keep their jobs.
More effective at this point is the parental instinct to educate. This means educating the 'Skins crowd' on separating the dramas from the scripted realities from the actual reality and that making the right choice in the latter is the only one that counts for anything.
Parents will certainly shoulder the brunt of this responsibility. But their is a great opportunity for a few responsible advertisers looking to promote brands that do "fit" with the themes of the show. A major brewer like Anheuser-Busch or MillerCoors or spirits company like Diageo could use it as a forum to promote designated driving or campaign against binge drinking on college campuses. Condom manufacturers could promote safe sex. The message of an organizations like Planned Parenthood or The Partnership for a Drug Free America also fit with the themes of the show. I'd like to see them go further than just buying spots too. The advertising could easily tie in with the programming, like BMW did with Mad Men, to not only serve as a commercial break but also a necessary reality check.
What do you think MTV should do? What other options do they have? Comment by clicking on the link below. I look forward to reading them.