Veggie Tales, It's Not: PETA's Super Bowl Ad Is Too Much for NBC to Stomach

By Lisa de Moraes
Wednesday, January 28, 2009

NBC has nixed a new Super Bowl ad from the animal rights activist group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals because the ad is too sexually explicit.

It shows beautiful women, dressed in sexy undies, getting very intimate.

With vegetables.

Particularly pumpkins. Total sex maniacs, those pumpkins.

"Studies Show Vegetarians Have Better Sex," reads the tag line.

The ad suggests that changing over to a healthier, vegetarian diet -- or, alternatively, dressing like a broccoli -- will help guys attract hot, horny models.

"Apparently, NBC has something against girls who love their veggies," PETA said of the rejection. NBC's list of images it wanted cut before the network would reconsider the ad "even made us blush!" PETA said prettily.

Which is odd, given that PETA created those shots -- including one in which an asparagus spear is perched on a model's lap, looking as if it had been raised on a steady diet of Viagra. Some really great camera work there.

Other shots that NBC wanted nixed include one of a model licking a pumpkin, and another showing a model from behind with a pumpkin between her legs, and another of a model rubbing a pumpkin against her torso. "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" is now ruined for us forever -- thanks, PETA.

Come to think of it, pretty much every shot in the spot was on NBC's Ixnay on the Eggievay list.

"The ad was rejected because it did not conform with our standards," an NBC spokeswoman told The TV Column.

Given that this is one of many PETA ads rejected by a network -- the group has eight of them proudly displayed on its Web site -- we, and apparently others, can't help but suspect that PETA never really intended to buy ad time in the Super Bowl, what with a 30-second spot going for around $3 million a pop.

Heck, one of PETA's pals raised the subject on the group's own Web site:

"I get that PETA wants to be controversial, but instead of making ads that are continually banned, why don't you ever create ads that people will actually see? I mean it seems to me that the only people who see the ads are already PETA supporters."

Of course, being banned by NBC is a really effective way to drive viewers to your Web site to watch the naughty spot -- and saves about $3 million.

According to one source who has knowledge of the back and forth, when PETA gave NBC the ad to consider, the group asked the network to give specific edits that would make the ad conform to its standards. As a courtesy to the client, NBC did so. And, as so often happens when a potential "advertiser" submits an ad knowing that the network would never use it, PETA then used that memo it requested as a publicity opportunity. As in:

"Read NBC's Sexually Explicit Rejection E-Mail." That's a link on PETA's home page.

We feel like such a tool.

* * *

Fox's "American Idol" topped the chart, but CBS clocked the week's biggest crowd, and President Obama's numbers were all the talk.

Here's a look at the week's hits and misses:


Obama swears. About 38 million people watched Barack Obama's historic swearing-in Jan. 20 (as our very first African American president) on televisions in their homes -- second only to the nearly 42 million who caught Ronald Reagan's swearing-in (as the country's very first Hollywood actor turned president). Nielsen Media Research shrewdly did not count anyone who watched Obama's inauguration at their office or school, because the swearing-in happened in the middle of the day, when millions of people are at work or at school. Aren't monopolies wonderful? Anyway, when CNN's coverage of Obama's swearing-in and speechmaking clocked 8.5 million viewers, it became cable TV's most watched program of the week, as well as of January. That's up nearly 200 percent compared with former president George W. Bush's swearing-in-and-speechifying half-hour in '01. CNN's competitors were no slouches; Fox News Channel logged 5.5 million in the same half-hour this year, and MSNBC nearly 3.1 million -- up about 108 percent and nearly 100 percent, respectively, compared with the same half-hour in '01.)

Obama dances. Obama's inauguration-night Neighborhood Ball, to which ABC had bought exclusive broadcast rights, ranked No. 11 for the week, with nearly 13 million tuned in, including a couple million who might otherwise have been watching "Idol," which logged an unusually low 22.8 million viewers that night.

Obama gets around. National Geographic Channel was the highest-rated ad-supported cable network Sunday, because "On Board Air Force One" -- see Obama step into one of the presidential planes for the first time, see Obama meet his designated pilot for the first time -- clocked NGC's second-biggest debut audience ever: 2.428 million viewers, behind only the debut of its August '04 docu "Inside 9/11." Immediately after "Air Force One," "On Board Marine One" clocked 2.16 million, becoming NGC's third-best debut ever.

"Lie to Me." Unveiling of Fox's new "Lie to Me" in a can't-miss, post-"American Idol" time slot copped 12.4 million viewers Wednesday -- the second-biggest debut of the season, behind only CBS's "The Mentalist," which snagged 13.5 million in September without an "Idol" springboard. Procedural crime dramas may not be hip, but viewers love 'em.


"Lost." The heralded return of ABC's serialized-to-within-an-inch-of-its-life drama "Lost" attracted the show's smallest season-debut audience ever: 11.4 million viewers.

The week's 10 most watched programs, in order, were: Fox's Wednesday "American Idol," Fox's Tuesday "American Idol," CBS's "CSI," CBS's "Two and a Half Men," Fox's "House," CBS's "CSI: Miami," ABC's "Grey's Anatomy," CBS's "60 Minutes," CBS's "Criminal Minds" and CBS's "Cold Case."

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