Moral outrage may play to MTV's benefit in "Skins" controversy

Chevrolet says its ads ran "mistakenly" during the premiere. It was on their "do not buy" list.

H&R Block says that its ads ran "inadvertently" as part of a rotation.

Taco Bell says it is pulling its ads too.

So far, this has been the brand advertiser response to MTV's "Skins," after a furor was kicked-up over racy sex and drug scenes involving underage actors. There have been claims of violations of anti-child pornography laws, and calls for consumers to flood Taco Bell with complaints.

"We advertise on a variety of MTV programs that reach our core demographic of 18 to 34 year olds, which included the premiere episode of Skins" said a Taco Bell spokesman. "Upon further review, we’ve decided that the show is not a fit for our brand and have moved our advertising to other MTV programming," he said.

Chevy may be asking for a makegood, and H&R Block is adjusting its buy orders, but don't expect ratings to decline or advertising dollars to dry up. In fact, expect ratings to bulge, and advertisers to clamor to participate.

All of this controversy seems to be good news for MTV.

Remember the dust-up over MTV's Jersey Shore in 2009? While over different content issues, the publicity surrounding Domino's pulling ads over the negative portrayal of Italian-Americans did little to douse the fire that is the Jersey Shore phenomenon. In fact, it may have stoked the flames.

And, MTV may be wishing for the same publicity around "Skins"--with the same positive result.

Here's some press coverage from The New York Times:

With ads that feature groups of barely clothed teenagers, “Skins” is surely one of the most sexually charged programs that MTV has featured. Before it even had its premiere, the Parents Television Council, a TV watchdog group, labeled “Skins” the “most dangerous program that has ever been foisted on your children.” The group objected to the gratuitous scenes of drug and alcohol use, violence and sexual acts.

Of course, those scenes may be what attract young viewers in the first place...

Yes, it seems that playing the Moral Outrage Card among Generation Y simply does not work...except to the advantage of racy content.

The 65 million+ Americans who fit into the 18-34 demographic have a different response to salacious, outrageous and boudy behavior on television. They've been raised on "The Hills," "Real World," "Big Brother," "TMZ," The Real Housewives" and even "To Catch a Preditor" and expect to see sex, drugs, nudity and fist-fights of low moral-order.

We should expect to see the "Skins" controversy engender weeks of press coverage. Just the way MTV (and their audience) likes it.

Sources: The Hollywood Reporter,, Vanity Fair, The New York Times

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