Using a shareholder meeting as a forum to advance various causes and policies is an increasingly popular watchdog tactic, when available, and Parents Television Council has taken advantage of it to urge pharmaceutical giant Pfizer to exercise caution and restraint when deciding where to advertise its “blue” pill. PTC believes airing ads for Viagara during family–oriented programming can lead to embarrassment and unwanted questions and should be avoided.
“I’m sure you’ll agree that parents need to monitor and control what their children are watching but your commercial advertising offers no indication as to where these spots will suddenly appear, “ said PTC Director of Corporate Relations Glen Erickson at the meeting. “Moreover, because of the sheer volume of advertising weight that Pfizer supports this particular brand with, it is virtually impossible for a parent to identify what shows will have kid safe commercials. Recently, your ads have appeared in NCAA basketball, ABC’s World News and during shows on family-targeted networks such as TV Land and Discovery Channel. We understand that you are targeting men with your message but please appreciate that children are watching these programs as well.”
PTC reports that Pfizer execs agreed to a meeting to further discuss the matter later this month.
RBR/TVBR observation: We are frequent critics of PTC when it is trying to restrict speech in ways we find inappropriate. But we concede the organization is perfectly within bounds, constitutionally, when it asks for voluntary action or makes its point by going after a company’s wallet.
The reason free speech is specifically protected is so that the tiniest minority – in fact, so a minority of one – cannot have that right trampled on by a majority of any size.
In this case, Pfizer has agreed to discuss the matter with PTC. That’s great. Pfizer may decide, however, that while maybe they don’t need Discovery, sports events are too big an opportunity to pass by. PTC then is perfectly within its rights to urge its members to avoid Pfizer products, and to avoid watching the shows that accept its advertising. Hey, if PTC can muster enough market force, they can knock bleeps off TV, shock jocks off the radio and Howard Stern off the satellite.
But for all of PTC’s bluster about representing most of us, we’ll bet they can’t muster that market power.