CW Blasphemes God (with a Wink and a Nod) in Ads for Teen Drama


The new ad campaign for the CW network's teen sex soap Gossip Girl features close-ups of two passionate couples and the letters “OMFG” plastered across them. The print campaign ran in Entertainment Weekly, In Touch, Soap Opera Digest, TV Guide, and People.

The video ads, which ran on Bravo, VH1, MTV, E!, Style, and Oxygen, include a jumble of sexual situations, including teens undressing each other and two girls kissing. OMFG is splayed across the TV screen during the footage.

“OMG” translates to “Oh My God” in the language of text messaging.  The addition of the “F” means … well, it's the word that can cost broadcasters a hefty government fine if someone actually says it on TV.

CW insists the show is aimed at an 18-to-34 audience.  But Gossip Girl was the top-rated new show among 12-17 year olds last fall, according to Media Life magazine.   

On April 28, CNN reporter Brooke Anderson interviewed CW Vice President for Marketing Rick Haskins, who defended the campaign by saying:

“Some people can say, 'Oh my frickin' goodness' …OMG and OMFG are just letters. Anyone you talk to—you can talk to 10 people and you'll probably get 10 different answers.”

An incredulous Anderson took a camera out on a sidewalk and said,  “We spoke to 30 people, and all of them, except for two women in their 60s, said they knew what it meant.” Most of the interviewees had to be bleeped.  One young man summed it up: “I think it's blasphemy, actually.”  

The salacious ad campaign has drawn fire from parent groups, including the Parents Television Council, a non-partisan group that promotes broadcast decency.  By contrast, the entertainment media have given tacit approval.  The Hollywood Reporter and MediaPost have reported the story only in the context of cutting-edge advertising. Reuters called the campaign “sexy.”

The CW network is a joint venture between Warner Brothers Entertainment and CBS. Gossip Girl, which is based on a teen book series about spoiled rich kids, airs at 8 p.m., which most broadcasters deem the “family hour.”  The PTC review of Gossip Girl, for which the organization gave its highest warning, includes the following caveats:

    Dialogue includes “f'ing,” “crap,” “whore,” “a**, “b**ch,” “slut,” “screw,” “damn,” and “hell.” Scenes include a prolonged, graphic sex encounter between two teenagers, and two others in which a girl offers her virginity to her boyfriend before they're interrupted. Discussions reference teens having sex, one boy saying that a girl was so perfect-looking he wanted to “violate” her, plus a reference to Viagra, and a scene of a young man waking up in bed with two young women. The teenagers smoke marijuana and drink alcohol.  The drugs and drinks are  glamorous, easy to obtain, and part of everyday life. Parents are depicted as distant, uncaring, using their children for personal gain and apparently unconcerned about the teens' welfare.

 In a statement carried by the Hollywood Reporter, CW said that the OMFG campaign was intended to be “provocative … and remind(s) viewers of some the 'OMG' moments that have made Gossip Girl one of the most buzzed-about new shows on television.” 

When it debuted, reviewers were not kind. 

    Alessandra Stanley of the New York Times wrote, “the novels have no underlying moral lesson.” Robert Bianco of USA Today said the show was “at times, too adult for its and its audience's own good.”

According to the PTC website (, “The content in Gossip Girl is decidedly adult, in spite of the characters being teenagers.” The PTC reviews every show on broadcast television and rates each according to suitability for family viewing.  

In an article for WorldNet Daily, Melissa Henson, PTC's director of communications and public education, who was also interviewed on the CNN segment, said, "It's sort of like Sex and the City for the Clearasil set. There are frequent episodes of underage drinking, promiscuous sexual behavior, teens going to strip clubs, hanging out at night clubs. Moreover, there's really little or no discussion of consequences or risks of engaging in this behavior.”

Gossip Girl returned to the airwaves on April 21.  For a list of advertisers who are supporting this show's content click here.