Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Ad Council Needs Sensitivity Training

The Ad Council, the public service organization that brought you the famous "This your brain. This is your brain on drugs" and "A mind is a terrible thing to waste" public service advertising (PSA) campaigns, has developed a new campaign calling on parents to take a more active role in policing what their kids watch on TV.

The new campaign, called Media Management, features two PSA spots for TV: "Boss of Mob" and "Boss of Drugs." While meant to be humurous, the "Boss of Mob" spot is not funny and very offensive. It features three "mob types" in a woman's living room. The woman is telling the mobsters (who apparently are characters in a fictitious Sopranos-like TV show) that what they do on TV is not appropriate for children. She tells them that they will have to be blocked (a reference to using the V-chip that is built into most TVs these days, which enables parents to block TV shows they deem inappropriate for their children). The head mobster tries to change her mind by offering to give her child's watch back (which he apparently stole from the kid).

According to a press release, the creator of the PSAs notes:

"It is important for parents to know that they have the power and the responsibility to monitor what their children watch on TV," said Joyce King Thomas, Chief Creative Officer at McCann Erickson New York. "We decided to show that empowered parent in a humorous, relevant way."

Ms. King Thomas is correct, it is important for parents to monitor what their children watch on TV. But perpetuating stereotypes and offending an entire group of people is not the way to get your message across. Ms. King Thomas needs to be aware of how offensive her new PSAs are to Italian-Americans.

What's ironic about this whole campaign is that it was developed in conjunction with Jack Valenti, an Italian-American, and the former head of the Motion Picture Association of America. Mr. Valenti is a very powerful executive in Hollywood. As an Italian-American he should be more sensitive to how his paisans are portrayed in the media.