Parents Television Council Urges Sponsors to Reconsider Advertising During VMAs (Exclusive)

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Miley Cyrus

The family-values watchdog group has already taken issue with MTV's choice of Miley Cyrus as host, recalling her racy 2013 performance with Robin Thicke.

The Parents Television Council is going after past sponsors of the MTV Video Music Awards as part of its ongoing battle with the awards show.

The family-values watchdog group, which has criticized the content of the past two editions of the annual trophyfest, sent a letter to the VMAs' past sponsors urging them to reconsider advertising during this year's show.

In its letter, sent to roughly 25-30 advertisers on Aug. 12, the PTC cited research that ads aired during explicit programming are less effective.

"Scientific research — including recent research at the Ohio State University — has demonstrated a significant impairment in viewer recall when advertisements air within sexually and violently graphic programming," the PTC wrote in part. "And viewers consider a company buying time in graphic programming as a tacit endorsement of the content."

The group goes on to state that if the show contains adult content even though it's rated appropriate for 14-year-olds, it will urge its members to contact the show's sponsors. As of Aug. 24, the PTC had only received one response to their letter, from a company who said it has no plans to buy ad time during the VMAs.

The PTC has already taken issue with Miley Cyrus being the host of this year's show, releasing a statement shortly after she was selected, stating that the choice, "makes clear the network’s intentions as to what kind of program it intends to air."

In that statement, PTC president Tim Winter urged MTV to rate the show TV-MA and saw the incident as another reason for a la carte cable subscriptions.

In its letter to sponsors, the PTC claims MTV is "courting controversy" by selecting Cyrus as the host, reminding advertisers of her racy 2013 performance with Robin Thicke.

After that show, the PTC released a statement saying in part, "MTV has once again succeeded in marketing sexually charged messages to young children using former child stars and condom commercials — while falsely rating this program as appropriate for kids as young as 14. This is unacceptable."

After last year's less explicit show, the group seemed mostly pleased but expressed concerns about the way women were portrayed during the show and the inconsistency of featuring positive messages mixed with scantily clad dancers.

MTV declined to comment.

Read the PTC's full letter below.

Dear ______,

The Parents Television Council is issuing an urgent alert to all corporate advertisers regarding MTV’s annual award show, the Video Music Awards.  MTV’s award shows are known for carefully orchestrated controversy and shock value, even though the program is marketed to impressionable young viewers.

MTV appears to be courting controversy with this year’s VMAs by its choice of Miley Cyrus -- who, you will recall, ignited a firestorm of controversy during the 2013 VMAs when she bent over and gyrated on the pelvis of Robin Thicke, and pretended to masturbate with a giant foam finger – as host.

As you weigh your options, and decide which programs you will support with your sponsorship dollars, I’d like to urge you to consider the overwhelming evidence that sponsoring family-friendly programming will help build brand equity, improve the ROI of your ad dollars, and even improve the chances that your ad will be remembered.

We understand your need to generate ad impressions within your desired market demographic. But scientific research -- including recent research at the Ohio State University -- has demonstrated a significant impairment in viewer recall when advertisements air within sexually and violently graphic programming. And viewers consider a company buying time in graphic programming as a tacit endorsement of the content.

If this year’s VMAs are in any way like last year’s, or the previous year’s, and if MTV rates the program as appropriate for fourteen-year-olds despite the presence of adult content, the PTC will be taking action. We will be identifying the companies that helped to pay for that content and urging our members to contact them.

If your company purchases MTV or Viacom networks on a Run-of-Schedule basis, we urge you to opt out of this program until you have evaluated the program’s content.

Please feel free to contact us at any time if we can assist you in any way.  There are other programs on MTV and/or on other networks owned by Viacom which may well meet your advertising needs; and we stand ready, willing, and able to help.

Aug. 24, 1:36 p.m. This story has been updated to include information about responses to the letter.

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