Studios Stand Behind Skins

MTV on Monday night aired the second installment of its kids-these-days drama Skins, and despite the defection of a number of high-profile sponsors, studio dollars ensured a full spot load.

No fewer than 16 ads for upcoming releases ran during the five commercial pods, a roster that included repeat customers Dream Works (I Am Number Four), Screen Gems (The Roommate), Paramount Pictures (No Strings Attached), Columbia Pictures (Just Go With It) and New Line (The Mechanic). Spots promoting each of the five films ran twice during the 10 p.m.-11 p.m. time slot.

Also back for a return engagement were New Line’s horror flick The Rite and Universal Studio’s Sanctum. Both releases were in for a single :30.

Four new clients joined the fray Monday night. Focus Features’ Roman epic, The Eagle, appeared at the tail end of the first pod, leading into a promo for MTVs I Used to Be Fat. Rated PG-13, the film opens Feb. 11. Nicolas Cage continues his merry pursuit of financial solvency with Summit Entertainment’s Drive Angry; a spot for the Oscar winner’s 3-D popcorn movie bowed at the end of the fourth pod.

Unknown, a Warner Bros. shoot-em-up starring accidental action hero Liam Neeson, anchored the first Skins pod, while a 15-second spot for the cheapie From Prada to Nada—It’s Sense and Sensibility with that kid Fez from That ‘70s Show in the John Willoughby role!––closed out the fifth and final ad pod.

Conspicuous by its absence was the fast food category. In response to an intense lobbying effort by the conservative watchdog group Parents Television Council, Taco Bell last week announced it had pulled out of the show, saying Skins was “not a fit for our brand.” The restaurant chain had invested in two 30-second premiere spots.

Subway, the only other QSR brand that had ponied up for time in the Skins opener, also backed away from the show. Four other marketers (General Motors, Wrigley, Schick and H&R Block) followed suit; it’s well worth noting that none of the six companies that caved to the PTC’s call to cut ties with the program has moved any other inventory from MTV. In other words, the network isn’t losing any revenue as a direct result of the various pullbacks.

As was the case a week ago, a number of spots seemed to be particularly well-targeted, given Skins’ sexed-up content matter. An ad for the hyper-violent videogame Dead Space 2 featured the same cadre of concerned mothers ruefully shaking their heads over the first-person shooter, while an ad for Red Bull demonstrated how a determined young man might suss out the names of local harlots by spending a few moments in a confessional booth. Red Bull ran two spots last night.

MTV alum Whitney Port reappeared in the guise of the spokesperson for the Zeno Hot Spot skin care system (the ad ran three times), and as usual, MTV ran a sturdy complement of in-house promos. Spots for the scripted comedy My Life As Liz and the doc series Teen Mom 2 and I Used to Be Fat bookended the night’s pods, adding up to a total of eight network promos.

While the absence of the six reluctant clients hasn’t had an impact on MTV’s balance sheet, the lack of an automotive spot and a few ads for chewing gum appeared to make the load a little unbalanced. The night’s third pod consisted of a single Liz promo and a trailer for No Strings Attached, and the first and fourth pods each featured a PSA. (Both announcements were pleas for tolerance; the first inveighed against the lazy homophobia inherent in the term, “that’s so gay,” while the second PSA took a stand against online harassment.)

The oddest ad of the night was a twice-recurring direct-marketing spot for Celtrixa, a topical lotion designed to banish unsightly stretch marks. That stretch marks are an affliction particular to Skins’ 12-34 demo seems rather suspect; in any event, MTV was not reduced to running DM spots during the sold-out premiere.

In the face of all the breathless coverage of the Skins defections, it’s relevant that MTV has done its best to play by the rules, screening episodes for clients and running a TV-MA warning immediately before the show’s 10 p.m. start time. As is the case with such lobbying efforts, clients often discover that the path of least resistance lies in acquiesence to the PTC. Naturally, those sponsors who are less inclined to view pop culture as some sort of gateway drug for teen depravity stay the course.

At any event, the uproar over Skins is likely to draw in more curiosity seekers. Per Nielsen, the premiere of 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 in a series debut.