MTV’s teen drama Skins may have left watchdog groups in a teeth-gnashing, garment-rending fury, but despite the show’s dizzying cocktail of sex, drugs and rock 'n’ roll—or what passes for rock 'n’ roll these days—advertisers were eager to line up to hawk their wares during Monday night’s premiere.
The Jan. 17 series opener carried a full spot load, as no fewer than 29 paid advertisements ran in the one-hour episode. As one might expect, movies were well represented, as studio releases accounted for a dozen paid spots.
A 30-second trailer for Dream Works’ upcoming supernatural thriller I Am Number Four aired three times during the Skins premiere, leading out of an in-house promo for Teen Mom 2 in the first pod before popping up again in the third and fifth pods. Other films featured twice during the pilot episode were: the Sir-Anthony-Hopkins-Must-Want-to-Buy-a-Yacht Exorcistploitation flick The Rite; the Minka Kelly-Leighton Meester homage to Single White Female (The Roommate) and Ashton Kutcher & Natalie Portman’s friends-with-benefits comedy No Strings Attached.
A spot promoting the James Cameron–produced 3-D action movie Sanctum appeared in the fourth pod, joining the new Adam Sandler vehicle Just Go With It and the Jason Statham explosion narrative The Mechanic.
Fast-food purveyors were also in attendance last night. Taco Bell threw down for two :30s heralding its new Beefy Crunch Burrito, while Subway offered a somewhat healthier alternative with its turkey melt promotion.
While the Plan B morning-after pill made its regular appearance at the tail end of a special Jersey Shore lead-in, the emergency contraception category was left unclaimed during the Skins premiere. Instead, MTV ran a spot for the First Response pregnancy test.
Four rival networks ran promos for original series, including Fox, which at the close of the fourth pod teased the season premiere of American Idol and USA Network, which opted for a 30-second clip highlighting the comedic drama Royal Pains. Immediately following the USA promo, TBS unveiled a new Conan spot, while Syfy closed out the night with a teaser for its own Brit reboot (Being Human).
As is generally the case with its prime-time series, MTV bookended each pod with in-house promos. Spots for Teen Mom 2 kicked off the first and third pods, while new installments of Jersey Shore and I Used to Be Fat bracketed the other pods.
Two spots seemed to be particularly well-targeted, given Skins’ salacious subject matter. An ad for the ultraviolent videogame Dead Space 2 featured concerned mothers tut-tutting the first-person shooter before throwing to the inspired tagline, “Your mom will hate it.” That spot ran twice. In the second pod, an ad for Red Bull depicted a young man in a confessional—the Roman Catholic variety, not the monitored closet that has become a mainstay of MTV’s The Real World—manipulating a priest in order to drum up “new leads” (i.e., the names of local slatterns).
Whether the investment will have been worth it remains to be seen, but the Nielsen numbers suggest that MTV may have another hit on its hands. Skins averaged 3.26 million total viewers in the 10 p.m. slot, of which 2.7 million, or 83 percent, were members of the target demo. That marks MTV’s all-time highest delivery of viewers 12-34 for a series debut.
Last week, days before the premiere, the PTC released what it called its most urgent alert, warning parents that Skins was “the most dangerous program for children that we have ever seen.” (That assessment was reached based on a handful of trailers for the show and not the pilot itself.
It was a racy little performance to be sure. Picture Bret Easton Ellis ghostwriting one of the Kelly’s-on-coke episodes of the old Beverly Hills 90210 and you’re halfway to appreciating the giddy debauchery on display. If the rampant drug use, brief nudity and suicidal ideation don’t have parents scrambling for the remote, then the potty mouth will.
Naturally, the advertisers were well aware of what they were getting into, having had the opportunity to screen the pilot and read the script ahead of time, as is standard operating procedure. And while the PTC will likely issue a charge to sponsors to boycott the show, should Skins scare up some big deliveries, those demands will fall on deaf ears.