There’s something about breasts and advertising. They’re used to hock everything from beer to breath mints. I’m surprised that a cleavage shot hasn’t been used to sell Cap’n Crunch, but the century is still young.
Yet when it comes to showing the true function of breasts in this world—feeding the young—TV station managers sweat. A daring commercial is dead in the water.
Last week, I was disappointed to hear that an ad showing breast-feeding was either rejected or pulled off the air by several TV stations in so-called “progressive” cities, such as New York, San Francisco, Boston and Seattle. I hadn’t seen the ad yet, so I didn’t make any snap judgements. But since most creative departments are filled with men, all I thought was, “Oh no. What have they done now?”
When I finally saw the spot, I couldn’t quite figure it out. Not the ad; the problem with it. I searched for a nipple, a piece of flesh, an off-color joke, something. I found nothing.
What I found was an honest portrait of a woman giving her opinion of the Medela Mini Electric Breast Pump for Epinions.com, a Web site offering consumer-product reviews. Created by Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco, the spot opens on Jen, a nursing mother, who demonstrates the product’s use from the flower-patterned couch in her Connecticut home. It’s presented in her own words and shot on video.
She positions the pump carefully over her breast and begins to stream milk into the clear plastic container. Her kitty watches intently.
“Sometimes I feel like a dairy cow,” she says, but she does it for her daughter’s health. Toward the end of her review, the doorbell rings. The pizza has arrived. She hands the breast pump to the delivery man so she can take the pizza and pay him.
Is it the sound of the pump working that bothers viewers? Her hand gently squeezing her breast to help the milk along? The cat sneaking in to lick the outside of the bottle? The adult exchange? Or is the subject problematic?
I asked several station managers. The ones who didn’t air it said they rejected it because of “content,” but declined to explain. Those who pulled it said it was due to viewer response. “We are a family station, and there are time periods when families find themselves having to respond to questions and discussions and not liking it, “ says Scott Hayner, general sales manager of KOMO-TV, an ABC affiliate in Seattle.
The client and agency are befuddled. “There is no profanity, no nudity, no reason why it should be pulled,” says Lauren Meller, a representative at Epinions.com.
Qualitative research, such as focus-group testing, didn’t indicate there would be content problems, says Paul Venables, creative director at Goodby. As a father who saw his wife get strange looks while breast-feeding his kids, Venables says America is just not ready. “A large portion looks at it as primitive,” he says. “It’s ludicrous.”
Apparently, breasts can be seen on television, provided they aren’t seen as functional.
Eleftheria Parpis, ADWEEK—March 27, 2000
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