The Parents Television Council, a nonpartisan family media watchdog group, has released its list of “best" and "worst” television advertisers for 2019. This year, one major brand has gone from worst to best, while another has lost its spot on the best list.
PTC’s annual list names the best and worst brands across nine business sectors when it comes to television advertisements. The nonprofit deems ads as problematic for children and families if they feature sexual or violent content, drug use or profanity.
The nine business sectors included in the list are known for their heavy reliance on television advertising, including fast-food chains, discount retail stores, department stores, insurance agencies, consumer electronics companies, food and beverage companies, and telecom corporations.
“As we are developing the criteria for the best and worst list, we are looking to see if advertisers are showing up on [shows PTC campaigns against]. Are they correcting course when we contact them about their sponsorship of the campaign shows’ rather problematic content?” PTC Program Director Melissa Henson told The Christian Post in an interview.
“Do they tend to be making a proactive effort to choose a positive ad environment or do they basically seem to not care at all about what kind of content they are paying for with their ad dollars?”
In years past, PTC listed Wendy’s on its “worst” list for fast food/quick service restaurant advertisers. But this year, Wendy’s is listed along with Dairy Queen as one of the “best” fast food advertisers.
Meanwhile, Yum! Brands (Taco Bell, KFC, Pizza Hut) and Subway are on the “worst” list. Henson said Taco Bell is often advertised on problematic shows.
“Wendy's had been appearing on a lot of shows that we had content concerns about and we made efforts to reach out to them,” Henson added. “As we were compiling the list this year, we were not seeing their brands showing up on any of the shows that we had campaigned on. So it looks like they really did make an effort to try to do a better job with their advertising.”
Another company that has “corrected course” when it comes to their ad buys is JoS A. Bank, which this year is labeled as the “best” in the “department store/clothing” category along with TJX (Home Goods, Marshalls, T.J. Maxx).
“We had reached out to them for sponsoring a show that we had concerns about. They got back to us immediately and said, ‘We're sorry, we didn't realize our ads were showing up there,’” Henson explained. “And their ads never appeared on that show again.”
Kohl’s and Limited Brands (Victoria’s Secret) are listed as the “worst” for clothing store advertisers.
Henson said that the placement on or off the list might vary on some things outside of whether a company is purchasing advertising on problematic shows. One example, she said, is AT&T, a company that had been placed on the “best” list in past years.
“AT&T has acquired Time Warner and because they acquired Time Warner, they are also now the parent company for HBO, which of course has produced a lot of problematic content from ‘Game of Thrones’ to ‘Euphoria,’ Henson said.
“We have made repeated attempts to contact AT&T about the fact ‘Euphoria’ was being marketed to teenage audiences. They were sort of dismissive about our concerns.”
Over the summer, PTC warned parents that “Euphoria” appears to be “overtly, intentionally, marketing extremely graphic adult content” including sex, violence, profanity and drug use.
For the telecom category this year, T-Mobile is ranked as “worst” and Verizon is ranked as “best.”
"Samsung and T-Mobile often show up on those MTV produced programs and some of the awards shows that they have," Henson said.
Walmart is listed as the “best” in discount retail, while Target is labeled the "worst."
For consumer products, Proctor & Gamble (Tide, Pampers, Pantene, Olay, Gillette) is listed as “best” while Unilever (Axe, Degree, Klondike, Lipton) is listed as “worst.”
Geico is listed as the “worst” advertiser in the insurance sector, while State Farm is labeled “best."
“In the case of Walmart and Procter & Gamble, what we've seen from them over many years is that they have huge advertising budgets, and quite often there isn't enough family-friendly inventory for them to spend their entire advertising budget,” Henson said.
“So yeah, from time to time, their ads do show up on bad shows, but overall, we know they are working very hard to make sure that their ads are showing up on family-friendly programs.”
“Geico, by contrast, does not seem to be quite as careful about where their ads are appearing,” Henson continued. “And they have not generally gotten back to us when we've written to them with our concerns about where their ads are showing up.”
The list comes as PTC's pressure in the past has led to shows being canceled because advertisers have backed out.
“Advertisers are the lifeblood of TV programs, and the kind of content they sponsor matters greatly,” PTC President Tim Winter said in a statement. “Our recent research has shown TV programs are getting more violent and have increased profanity, which is extremely concerning to families. Advertisers have the power to change TV for the better and reverse these trends.”
Winter stressed that companies “need to be responsible in all areas of their business,” including the kind of television content they sponsor.
The full list of “best” and “worst” advertisers in 2019 can be found here.