Condom Ads Are OK

A study issued by the Kaiser Family Foundation last week found that most American consumers have a positive attitude toward condom ads on network TV.

Of the 1,142 Americans surveyed by the foundation, an independent national health philanthropy, 71 percent were in favor of condom ads airing on TV. Thirty-seven percent of the respondents said such ads should be allowed to air at any time, while 34 percent said they should air at certain times, such as after 10 p.m.

The findings come as the nation finds itself in its 20th year of struggling with the AIDS epidemic. The Kaiser Family Foundation and other public health officials believe visibility will increase condom usage. “Television condom advertising can normalize the use of condoms,” said Thomas Coates, director of University of California San Francisco’s Center for AIDS Prevention.

Currently, three networks-CBS, Fox and NBC-run condom ads, but only during late-night programming and with content restrictions. Fox’s policy requires running the ads after 9 p.m., with the restriction that “the message is prevention of disease,” said Jeff DeRome, Fox’s vp of corporate communications-not birth control or family planning. The ads also cannot air during family programming, such as The Simpsons, even after 9 p.m.

ABC, UPN and the WB network do not accept condom advertising. UPN ran a condom ad in 1998 but banned such advertising after numerous affiliates refused to run the commercial. “Ultimately, we rely on our affiliates on what they think meets the standards of its community,” said Adam Ware, UPN COO.

According to Rick Mater, WB’s svp of broadcast standards, “WB does not have condom advertising because it does not have a late-night schedule,” as it only shows syndi cated reruns at that time. Instead, WB programs such as Dawson’s Creek and Felicity have shown characters discussing and practicing safe sex. Paul McGuire, svp of network communications at WB, said the network feels viewers relate better to such messages conveyed during shows, because they iden tify more with the characters than a brief ad.

The only condom spots that have run on national network TV have been for the Trojan brand, according to the foundation; Trojan’s first ad ran in 1991 on Fox, the first network to air condom spots nation ally. Trojan’s most recent TV ads, by Bates in New York, ran in December 2000 on NBC, CBS and Fox and urged con su mers to use condoms during New Year’s festivities.

Network officials said the lack of condom advertising may be because companies have not approached them with ads in several years. In this sluggish economy, a network would be happy to work something out with a company such as Trojan maker Carter-Wallace, said one executive.

Richard Kline, vp, marketing for Carter Products at C-W, had a different opinion. “Since 1997, we have submitted 10 different Trojan commercials to the broadcast networks for approval,” he said. “Three were accepted for late-night airing only.” In response to the survey, Kline said the company has “more exposure planned” for network TV in the future.

Trojan ads, featuring the spokes character Trojan Man, have run on network radio, and C-W’s Carter Products has placed similar ads on cable TV, whose ad restrictions are much looser than those of the networks. Network TV, however, provides broader exposure, said Kline.

TV condom ads were prohibited by the National Association of Broad casters’ code of conduct in the ’60s and ’70s. The code was rescinded in 1979 when the U.S. Department of Justice opposed it in an antitrust lawsuit.