Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia on May 23, 1976 · Page 114
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May 23, 1976

Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia · Page 114

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Charleston, West Virginia
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Sunday, May 23, 1976
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Page 114
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Page 114 article text (OCR)

TV viewer complaints can bring results By Lee Margulies LOS ANGELES Iffi - Watching television may not cost money but, as everyone knows, there is a price to be.paid: sitting through commercials. No matter how lofty your viewing habits, unless you limit yourself to public television it's impossible to escape the never-ending assault of often inane advertisements -people worrying that bad breath will destroy their love life, voices screeching "ring around the collar!" and housewives proclaiming that great tasting coffee saves their marriages. Yet for all the griping people do about commercials, they don't seem to pass much of it along to the sponsors and the TV stations, which are in a position to bring about changes. CBS says that at the network level it receives an average of no more than 75 letters a month complaining about commercials. ABC says it gets 20 at the most. What's surprising about the low volume of formal complaining is " that letters can be effective weapons. Consumer groups, network officials, advertisers and advertising agencies, asked what recourse the individual TV:viewer had to objectionable television commercials, generally agreed that a letter often is worth the effort -- especially if a lot of other people are complaining about the same subject. "I think the dost effective thing is writing a letter to the guy that paid the bill -- the sponsor," said Jack McQueen,.director of broadcasting in Los Angeles for the Foote, Cone Belding advertising agency. . "My experience has been that advertisers are very sensitive to consumer criticism generally and especially commercials that offend them. People tend to gripe at .the network or station that shows the ad, and they tend to forget the fact that the commercials were created by agencies in tandem with clients." .. Ernie Filice, national commercial coordinator for McDonald's restaurant chain, .explained why sponsors pay close attention to the reaction their ads draw. "We're in business," he said. "And you're only as good as your customers. If, they're unhappy, if they are.turnjSd'off by what you're doing, you might as well hang it up." Individual TV stations are equally sensitive to criticism -- of any sort -- because they are licensed by the federal government to serve the public, and licenses can be revoked. Question Box 1 THE TV WATCHER'S ADDRESS BOOK (Clip and Sate) w ^ I I ABC Television 1330 Avenue of the Americas New York, N.Y.. 10019 CBS Television 51 West 52nd St. New York. N.Y, 10019 \ \ \ NBC Television 30 Rockefeller Plaza New York, N.Y.. 10019 V Fed. Trade Commission 6th and Pennsylvania Ave. N.W. ^Washington, D.C., 20590 Fed. Communications Commission 1919 M St. N.W. Washington. O.C., 20554 w \ Nat. Advertising Division Council of Better Business Bureaus 845 3rd Ave. New York, N.Y, 10022 \ \ Nat. Citizens Committee for Broadcasting 1346 Connecticut Ave. N.W. Washington. D.C., 20036 Action for Children's Television 46 Austin St. Newtonville. MA, 02160 S Filice said McDonald's once used a foreign car in a television commercial, got a batch of angry letters and now specifies that only American-made products are to be used in its .messages. CBS executive Jack Hinton said Alka Seltzer cut short the run of a commercial showing Salvadore Dali painting an upset stomach on a woman in a body stocking'because of .viewer complaints. And Shake 'n' Bake withdrew a spot from the network after TV watchers in the South wrote in about the phony southern accent one of the characters was using. A media activist group based in the Boston area, Action for Children's Television, has had some success in urging broadcasters to pay closer attention to commercials aimed at kids. ACT's major accomplishment was getting the Federal Communications Commission to reduce the number of minutes devoted to commercials on Saturday morning children's shows. The organization also convinced a station not to use fireworks commercials on a children's show. But the experience has been frustrating in many ways, says ACT President Peggy Charren. She says she is continually amazed that the commercials that get on the air have passed advertising industry guidelines, the National Association of Broadcasters' TV Code, the network censors and each station's review. "The system isn't working correctly," said Mrs. Charren. "It's unreasonable to expect ACT or consumers at home to be so observant that they take on the job of what should be the duty of fedeud regulating agencies. "Besides which, by the time anyone at home sees a commercial it has usually run its course and would have gone off the air anyway." But until such time as the system is operating to her satisfaction, Mrs. Charren heartily recommends that viewers make their com- * plaints known.to the right people. Who are the right people? It depends what your gripe is. If you feel there are too many commercials during a program or that they are too loud, write the station you're watching and, if'it's a network show, the network in question. A copy also should go to the Federal Communications Commission, which is charged with regulating the broadcast industry. If you believe a particular commercial contains false or misleading information, write the Federal Trade Commission ir. Washington or the National Advertising Divi- ' sion or the Council of Better Business Bureaus in New York City. If, as is more likely the case, a particular commercial isn't deceptive but simply insults your sensibilities for any one of a variety of reasons, write the advertiser. You can usually get the manufacturer's name and address at the library from a red book called the Standard Directory of Advertisers, published annually by the National Register Publishing Co. But if that is too inconvenient, direct your comments to the local station or network. They'll usually forward them to the sponsor. In addition, Action for Children's Television welcomes complaints " about children's commercials and will do whatever it can to help the person who writes, Mrs. Charren said. Another activist group, the National Citizens Committee for Broadcasting in Washington, also is interested in gripes, and says it will forward letters of complaint to the appropriate manufacturer, government agency and broadcasters. A.--I have been hearing Barry Manilow on records, but I never realized how nice looking he was until I saw him perform on the "Grammy Awards Show." Is he going to have a show of his own soon?-L.E.W., Alton, 111. A.--Barry Manilow is a big concert attraction and he has little time left for aJTV series. He limits y, guest\appeafan.ce's. v . -//-.-_ 77.VF.A'or* STEINWAY THE INSTRUMENT OF THE IMMORTALS IS AVAILABLE AT 214 7th Avenue So. Charleston 744-9452 SATISFIED CUSTOMERS FOR OVER 25 YEARS Till ALUMINUM Rf PLACEMENT WINDOWS + Cuts fuel costs * Insulated twin pane glass * Tilts in for easy cleaning * Screens included * White aluminum finish 346-5701 NIGHTS--SUNDAYS--HOLIDAYS CALL 925-7104 CHARLESTON HOME IMPROVEMENT CO. 1721W. Washington St. Charleston, W.Va. CHARI£STt)N.'W.VA. : 2lm

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