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Desperate Marketing or ApologEvent?

I don’t watch that much American football – to me it represents the triumph of project management over sport. So it wasn’t much of a surprise to see ABC pulling all kinds of stunts to attract viewers.

ABC Sports apologized Tuesday for an “inappropriate” opening of the Philadelphia Eagles-Dallas Cowboys Monday Night Football telecast involving a sexually suggestive locker room meeting between Eagles wide receiver Terrell Owens and ABC’s Desperate Housewives’ star Nicollette Sheridan.

So, ABC issues an apology – but to who? The dads and teenage boys watching – who probably loved the stunt? Or to all the mothers and women – my guess, but probably not watching the stunt but rightly pissed as the moral ineptitude of it?

I’m all up for creative stunts as a key ingredient in any marketing campaign. I’ve never watched Desperate Housewifes’ but have been subjected to the advertising. I wonder if this isn’t a a misplaced stunt – not only misplaced in terms of audience targeting and timing but also in terms of audience sat – why attract people to a show that they ultimately won’t enjoy…?

Rudy Martzke hits on the miscues well:-

• The skit was carried at the start of MNF at 9 ET in the East when many youths still are watching. That’s 6 PT, when even younger kids might be watching with their parents.

“It was sexually blatant in the family hour,” said Charlotte viewer Will Hawkins, 68, who has a 12-year-old daughter. “It crossed the line. … I turned the whole thing off, and I hope most of the sensible people did.”

• The segment was shown despite NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue’s crackdown on entertainment acts on NFL shows since CBS-owned and -operated stations were fined $550,000 by the FCC for the baring of Janet Jackson’s breast during the Super Bowl halftime show.

There is no question that this represents bad PR for ABC. They were quick to issue an apology – good move. But I wonder if they listened to their PR teams prior to executing the stunt? The counsel here should have been pretty straightforward – “this might seem like a cool stunt but in the wrong slot, targeted at the wrong audience and we’re trying to re-negotiate our contracts… and its really going to offend people… remember that Madonna thing… don’t do it.” I wonder if brand/advertising people actually engaged here – would be interesting to know.

Whether they were or not, this demonstrates the gaping void between advertising execution and smart and sensitive public relations. Unless of course this was all a carefully executed media stunt…. Cuban makes this p0oint – are these simply “apologevents“.

The environment is perfect for both of us. We want as much media coverage of our programming as we can possibly get. You need things to cover. So here is the deal. From our end, we are going to create “Apologevents”.

An Apologevent is where we plan an event that we know we will have to apologize for.  The Apologevent will be designed to entice all the “Im shocked by anything” viewers to call their local stations, their newspapers and of course Inside Edition, The Insider, etc to remind them of how inappropriate the Apologevent was and how shocked they are.

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