After running on Time Warner cable this week in New York, this ad for the Nasty Pig clothing line was pulled from the air. The exact reasons are as yet unspecified, but speculating shouldn't be too hard.
Nasty Pig CEO David Lauterstein forwarded me the following emails that an account executive in TWC's Media Sales Coverage department that were sent to Tara Wolf, whose Wolf Media Inc., handled the ad buy:
To: Tara Wolf
Sent: Thursday, December 11, 2014 11:26 AM
Subject: Re: Nasty Pig
I've been trying to call you to explain the situation. I got feed back yesterday but it's not good.
This really got blown out of the water because we were running on networks that were not appropriate to run the spot on (Cartoon Network and TBS). It was flagged and now we're refusing any revision to the original spot and will not run the spot on any networks.
I understand this is a very delicate situation and I apologize for the way it played out. Please call me if you need any clarification.
To: Tara Wolf
Sent: Thursday, December 11, 2014 11:49 AM
It's the content that is the issue. If we were to use the old spot we used in November we wouldn't have a problem. But the holiday spot is edgy, and we take customer complaints seriously. I apologize again. I know this puts you in a bad spot.
I called the account executive to confirm that the spot has been pulled (it has) and that it was because of a complaint. "It was a call-in yes," the exec told me. He would not specify how many complaints Time Warner Cable received, or whether caving to complaints is a common practice. When I asked about whether the call or decision was homophobic, he told me, "Yeah, I don't know what you're fishing for, but it's not really the case. We had a call-in, a complaint for the commercial, which is pretty edgy and we had to pull it."
Wolf told me that based on the schedule she and Time Warner had agreed upon before airing, or "pre-log," the Lil Internet-directed ad aired four times on the gay-themed channel Logo before being yanked. It was also scheduled to run on TBS (during Big Bang Theory, Family Guy, and American Dad), Cartoon Network (during Family Guy and American Dad), Lifetime (during Project Runway), and Logo. On Logo, the commercial was slated for an ROS or "run of schedule," "because everything on Logo made sense," given the network's gay content, according to Wolf.
Wolf, like the Time Warner exec I talked to, used the word "edgy" to describe the ad, which features hunky, muscle-bound men in various states of undress. A few times, they come this close to making out. "It's edgy because it's an alternative lifestyle. It's not necessarily something you'd see in the mainstream media all the time. It is a little bit different than usual," she told me.
Nasty Pig produces a wide range of apparel, but is best known for its underwear and jock straps. It is a brand that pushes the envelope of the socially acceptable, and shamelessly so. Look no further than its name for proof.
Nasty Pig is a provocative brand that produced a provocative commercial. This tactic works for grabbing attention—think salacious (hetero-centric) spots from Calvin Klein or Trojan or Carl's Jr., or basically anything Victoria's Secret has ever produced, including the lingerie company's annual fashion show that aired this week. But even when this tactic fails, it works—GoDaddy and Porn Hub received plenty of attention for ads that were ultimately banned in some capacity. Lauterstein told me that producing a spot that would be banned (for example, this post) and thus immediately infamous (a la Madonna's "Justify My Love") was not his m.o.
"I just wanted to make a commercial that represented my brand and the customers we sell to," Lauterstein said. "We never intentionally made this commercial with the thought of being banned just to get press. We gave them plenty of time to offer edits as we knew this commercial might be strong for television. You can't do stuff like this for press. That's why there's an approval process. You can't do sensational things on non-live TV. That's why they have a standards board, to prevent situations like this."
Wolf said that Nasty Pig submitted the ad early, on November 20. She asked Lauterstein to do this "knowing the product that we have and being very open and forthcoming about the product that we have." Initially, she says, she received word that edits might have to be made. She pushed back, indicating that Nasty Pig would refuse to do so. Then, she says, Time Warner Cable gave the spot a green light.
When Time Warner Cable notified her on Tuesday of this week, though, that the ad was being pulled, she asked for specific problems so that revisions could be made to the ad.
"That's very commonly done with media," said Wolf. "[When I represented rock and roll], if someone had a pentagram or an upside down crucifix, we would change that. I've had my own company since 1998, I've been doing advertising since 1992. I've never had somebody not tell me exactly what the problems are. I've never just had them flat out reject like that. That's what bothered me. The hair went up on the back of my neck, like, this is wrong. It felt like homophobia to me. I didn't understand why they just didn't tell me what the problems were so that I could give them an alternate solution."
Wolf had previously done business with Time Warner Cable on behalf of Nasty Pig in October, when an ad for the company's fall line ran during American Horror Story: Freak Show in New York and Los Angeles markets. Because they targeted specific local markets, Wolf and Nasty Pig worked with the cable company and not the networks their ads were airing on. The October spots ran without incident, but then, everyone in them was fully clothed:
We've seen plenty of half-naked people on TV selling things like underwear and condoms. We've never, though, seen a bunch of guys in a commercial behaving in a way that suggests they just might all fuck after those 30 seconds end, and feel great about themselves and each other after. The ad is audacious and meant to grab attention, but why? Is it because it is outrageously sexual by any standard, or is it because we're still not used to seeing men socialize in this manner on TV? Is Time Warner calling the bluff of an ad that was tailored to be just short of too hot for TV, or is the company expressing preemptive discomfort on behalf of the public because Americans don't like when gays act gay?
That question might be too difficult for Time Warner Cable to answer. I have reached out to the company's media sales and publicity divisions for further clarification on this matter but have yet to hear back. I will update this post if and when I do.
Update: We received this statement via from a Time Warner Cable representative at 5:27 today:
Proper guidelines were not followed in this instance; we made a mistake. We are sorry and we will work with this client to make it right.