The Florida Family Association is not a fan of Pretty Little Liars. They have a big problem with the character of Emily and her romantic relationships with other females, which they refer to as "irresponsible imagery."
Earlier this year, they launched a campaign to send complaints to companies that advertised during the ABC Family show, asking them to remove their support from a show they described as "using salacious and glamorizing scenes portraying young, pretty women as lesbians" because it "sends the wrong message to these young girls, a message that reinforces and legitimizes this homosexual lifestyle in a manner that could affect these young girls' sexual identity for a lifetime." The data they cite is the show's popularity among girls ages 12-18, the same data I would use to highlight how important the show is in terms of visibility.
The FFA has been successful with only one company so far — Remax Realty — but this week, it announced food company General Mills had followed suit. They published the email they received from GM's Director of Consumer Services Jeff Hagen, who stated:
We have investigated this matter and confirmed that our advertising did air as you have reported. We have informed ABC Family Channel and our agencies that Pretty Little Liars is not a program that we will sponsor.
Thank you for bringing this to our attention.
We contacted GM to find out why they pulled their ads, as Jeff Hagen did not specify the reasoning for their cancellation. One could infer it was because of the FFA's specific campaign against the show based on its lesbian content, but a PR spokeswoman for the company said that is not the case.
We make advertising decisions based on the audience demographic reach of a program and relevance for our brands, and we make changes to our ad buys all of the time. That should not be misinterpreted. The decision is entirely based on the relevance of the show's audience for our brands, not because of the sexual orientation of individual characters.
It would seem that GM does not want to be seen as homophobic, but it is suspect that they would alert the FFA to their pulling of ads based on the specific emails citing Pretty Little Liars' lesbian content. But GM's spokeswoman says, "We did not pull advertising based on any particular character in this show or any other." And when asked if it is a company-wide policy to not advertise on shows with gay themes or characters said said, "The answer is no. There are examples I could cite, but I won't."
General Mills scored a score of 100 on the HRC Equality Index last year, which means they offer all of the major benefits, non-discrimination acts, equality resource groups and training to their LGBT employees. They also offered a statement to the HRC that diversity is "fundamental" at their company. From the report:
It's reflected throughout our company in our employees, in our consumers, in our suppliers and in our products. We see diversity at General Mills as an opportunity. It's an opportunity to enrich our culture with people of many different backgrounds. It's an opportunity to help develop the economies of our communities. And, it's an opportunity to become a company that better reflects the world we all live in. A fundamental value like diversity doesn't expire. It continues to evolve, and it continues to grow. We have goals every year and we believe in setting goals and objectives to stay focused, to measure progress but there is no ultimate, last goal, just as there is no single goal in business or in life. Other than perhaps to be better.
So why did GM pull their ads from Pretty Little Liars? The GM spokeswoman said that the "inference" that it was because of lesbian content is not accurate. "Jeff's response is correct," she wrote to me. "It's the inference, and your suggestion of the reason, that is incorrect."
It certainly seems suspect, especially with Jeff Hagen writing to inform the FFA they pulled their ads and that Pretty Little Liars "is not a show they will sponsor." Could it be that General Mills pulled ads because they weren't interested in reaching the demographic of young girls, and doing so also conveniently appeased the FFA? Or is someone at GM not following through with the "fundamental diversity" that the company professes? Until we know, you might want to check your food labels.
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