Arnold’s BBC Ads Ruffle Media

Arnold’s advertising for BBC America’s cable television programming has been causing a stir at media outlets.

The McLean, Va., shop bowed three 30-second spots late last quarter that were refused by broadcast TV executives for being in bad taste, said agency creative director Matt Smith. Ads for a talk show, a comedy and an original movie ran instead on cable.

Running with an “Advanced viewers only” warning, the spot for talk show So Graham Norton featured clips of the host displaying a “Joan’s Tongue” sex toy. Copy by Mick Sutter and Don Corrigan: “Don’t bother calling. We’re sorry already.” Print ads in Biography also came under attack in e-mails from media executives.

The spot for Peacekeepers, a drama about the psychological problems of Bosnian soldiers, was rejected because “they thought it would contribute to vandalism,” said Smith.

“What’s interesting about this rejection was that it told me we’d captured what BBC America was all about,” said Smith. “We’re being provocative because normal BBC programming is provocative and ours is not.”

Arnold, which shares the account with Kirshenbaum Bond & Partners West in San Francisco, has shifted the bulk of its spending to cable and increased print buys in 15 magazines, including Rolling Stone, Premiere, Advocate and Out.

Ads for Absolutely Fabulous and The Monty Python Show, substituting slapstick for slap and tickle, broke last week on TV stations in San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York.