Typing Faster

October 29, 2009

Microsoft, Family Guy and the PTC

Filed under: Kvetch, the biz — petertypingfaster @ 12:59 pm

For the launch of Windows 7 Microsoft decided they wanted to try to rebrand themselves a bit. Instead of the stuffy, older image that they’ve been projecting for years, they decided to try to horn in on Apple’s more youthful, male demographic. How did they decide to do this?

By sponsoring a Seth McFarlane comedy special of course!

Makes sense, right? If you’re trying to target young males why wouldn’t you sponsor a comedy special from the creator of Family Guy? It was going to be a big special event, and everyone seemed to be quite happy about the relationship.

At least until this week, when someone at Microsoft finally realized who Seth McFarlane was, and what kind of comedy he does. Needless to say, Microsoft has had second thoughts, ultimately leading to them pulling their sponsorship of the special.

So, why do we care? Seems like a pretty cut and dry example of a major corporation having second thoughts about an advertising strategy. Normally I’d chalk it up to that, but then the article goes and quotes the spokesman for the Parents Television Council.

“Other companies that are considering sponsoring the show in Microsoft’s place should be reminded that they will have to answer to their customers for the content they help put on the public airwaves,” the watchdogs growled.

Now the PTC has long had a hard on for Seth McFarlane and his brand of humor. They’d love nothing less than to force him off the air completely. And that, in my mind, is a problem. Why should the PTC wield untold influence on what the general public can or cannot watch? They’re whole slogan of “Because Our Children Are Watching” is utter bullshit.

If your kids are watching something you don’t want them to, then turn the damn television off. Be a goddamn parent, don’t threaten broadcasters (or sponsors) to not air something out of some sense of moral superiority. That’s just plain censorship of the worst possible kind.

But wait…didn’t you just say this was a pretty cut and dry case of a major corporate sponsor getting cold feet? Yeah, on the surface it does look like that.

Of course one look at Microsoft’s ad buying over the past few years does a pretty good job of killing that argument.

In the past few years Microsoft has:

  • $3.2M last season buying ad time on Family Guy
  • $1.4M last season buying ad time on reruns of Family Guy
  • $4M+ last season on Two And A Half Men, another show that the PTC objects to strongly
  • $1M+ last season buying ad time on South Park
  • Microsoft has also bought lots of ad time on shows like Breaking Bad, Nip/Tuck and Rescue Me. All of which have been censured by the PTC.

So, based on past advertising patterns, is Microsoft’s ditching of McFarlane’s comedy special due to genuine branding concerns? Or is it a reaction to pressure brought to bear by lobby groups like the PTC? If it is due to the PTC then what does that say about the kind of storytelling we can get away with as television creators?



  1. But, see, if there’s a watchdog group, then parents don’t have to actually take an interest in what their kids are doing.



    The issues are play here are the same one that go over and over in education – why let teachers…y’know…teach when they can babysit. Because then they’re not offending anyone.

    Should a watchdog group have that much control? Well, hey, if people think they’re important, that’s their choice – however, it falls down to the issue noticeable here – no one was paying attention.

    Comment by Elize Morgan — October 30, 2009 @ 6:26 am

  2. Family guy is just plain fantastic, i have watched every episode so far and it never gets tired.

    Microsoft needs to get a sense of humor!!

    Comment by Dave Keys — November 23, 2009 @ 5:23 am

  3. Microsoft, Family Guy and the PTC .Thanks for nice post.I added to my twitter.

    Comment by techwoo — January 10, 2010 @ 6:25 am

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