You won't see General Motors in the program, or even Lee Press-On Nails, but Fox last week claimed it has advertisers lined up for the controversial two-part special with O.J. Simpson that details how he would have murdered his wife Nicole Simpson, slain in 1994, if he had been the killer. Simpson was tried twice and acquitted in criminal court but found liable for his wife's death in a civil trial.
Agency executives were surprised to hear there was ad support for the special. "Who in their right mind would do it?" asked Paul Hindle, director of communications planning at Young & Rubicam. "I can't imagine any mainstream brand would want to be associated with such a program."
Some execs, like Scott Daly, executive media director, Dentsu, wondered just how firm the commitments for the special really are. "They could pull out under public pressure," he said, noting that several advertisers, including Home Depot and Campbell's, backed out of the current installment of CBS' Survivor because of the controversy surrounding the format, which divided teams by race.
Other agency executives were surprised that Fox was airing the program at all, given the tasteless nature of the content. It is believed that Simpson's kids are being paid millions for the special and a companion book that will be released Nov. 30, one day after the special airs.
"Any respect that Fox has built up since the Temptation Island and When Animals Attack days goes right out the window with this special," said the head buyer at a top-10 media agency.
But Daly said there is probably a group of advertisers who would consider buying time in the special. "Some people are looking for cheap impressions and really don't care what the public perception is," he said.
The special, OJ Simpson: If I Did It, Here's How It Happened, is set to air Nov. 27 and 29.