Sponsor Push for Family Fare Grows

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Having now quadrupled its advertiser membership to 40 since the fall of 1998, the Family Friendly Programming Forum is looking to widen its scope well beyond its initial script-development partnership with The WB Television Network.

The WB has ordered four scripts for pilots. Two are due this fall and two for midseason, according to forum co-chair Andrea Alstrup. The WB passed on three other scripts, which the group now plans to pitch to other networks, she added.

The organization's first award winners last fall included not only the CBS show Touched By an Angel and The WB's Seventh Heaven, but also Discovery Channel. It is now "talking with some other [networks] about developing scripts," Alstrup said, without identifying them.

The group welcomes all networks to come forward with ideas, added Alstrup, Johnson & Johnson's advertising vice president.

The organization now aims to broaden the definition of genres typically identified with family-appeal programming, such as Touched by an Angel and Seventh Heaven.

Co-chair Robert Wehling also said at the recent Association of National Advertisers' Television Forum that the family-sponsor group's first televised awards special is due in August or September as a Dick Clark-produced hour on CBS.

One-dozen of the group's 40 advertiser members now contribute to The WB's program-development fund, ranging from J & J and Procter & Gamble Co. to AT & T Corp. and General Motors Corp.

But three more have been added, Alstrup said: Bell Atlantic Corp., Tyson Foods Inc. and Unilever plc.

Family-friendly program ideas can have "a much broader range" than most people think, said Wehling, P & G's global marketing officer. He cited ABC's Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, with its multigenerational appeal, as one example.

The Pillsbury Co. corporate-media manager Hal Nitch said that such product need not exclude "shoot-'em-ups and adventure dramas." Moreover, membership in this initiative does not prevent those marketers from advertising on programs containing sex and violence, Alstrup and Wehling said.

If members were barred from such product, Alstrup observed, "None of us could advertise." Wehling said P & G's guidelines don't prohibit sex-and-violence shows-only those with "excessive or gratuitous sex and violence."

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