Fri Jan 30, 2009 @ 02:55AM PST
By Eriq Gardner
Pity the poor lawyer in the standards department of a television network. The job is rather thankless and when something offensive gets on the air, it's usually he or she who faces scorn from all sides.
Alonzo Wickers, a partner in the Los Angeles office of Davis Wright Tremaine who often conducts reviews for news and entertainment companies, told us a few years back that there's a great deal of misperception out there about the confrontational relationship between standards lawyers and network brass. “I’ve worked on 35 or 40 shows (including 'South Park')," he said, "And I can count on one hand the number of times where there’s been true conflict.”
That might be true, but there's nothing quite as big as the Super Bowl to get people nervous. This year, NBC is charging $3 million per 30-second spot, and NBC Sports chairman Dick Ebersol says this year's ad sales would probably set a record.
But not all ads are getting past the standards lawyers.
PETA says it was denied the opportunity to run a risqué spot showing lingerie models frolicking amid broccoli and pumpkins. On its website, the org released an e-mail sent by NBC Universal VP of Advertising Standards Victoria Morgan that suggested the group edit out "licking pumpkins," "touching her breast with her hand while eating broccoli," "rubbing pelvic region with pumpkin," "screwing herself with broccoli," and more. Here's the letter.
Frankly, we feel a little bit sorry for Morgan. She must deal with network liability in the post-"wardrobe malfunction" era
, and as THR's James Hibberd points out
, this very well could be a clever ruse by PETA to score publicity without actually having to spend $3 million on the spot.
If the latter is the case, it wouldn't be the first time something like this happened. In fact, trademarks on the Super Bowl are protected rather strongly, and if there's one thing that the gameis famous for in the legal community, it's all sorts of envelope-pushing, lawyer-provoking "ambush marketing
" campaigns by advertisers.