CW's Gossip Girl Takes No Prisoners in New Ad Campaign

Ad campaigns are designed to grab attention.  CW, the network that airs the tart teen soap Gossip Girl, has taken that mantra to a whole new, provocative and disrespectful level.  In a nutshell the network is poking a finger in the eye of outraged parents and critics of the salacious show.

Two ads that have been released by the network feature teenagers in compromised positions.  Copy for both ads uses the words of the show's critics as tag lines.  One ad reads “Every Parent's Nightmare – Boston Herald” and the other reads “Mind-Blowingly Inappropriate – Parents Television Council.”  Shades of last century's smut books boasting “Banned in Boston” on their covers.

Provocative advertising is not new to Gossip Girl.  As CMI reported earlier, in April the network unveiled a blasphemous campaign featuring steamy pictures of the series' young actors with the tag line “OMFG.”  OMG is text-speak for “Oh my god.”  The “F” is for the f-word. At the time the network played coy, saying OMFG could stand for any number of things like “Oh My Freaking Goodness.”  Nobody believed them.

In a July 22 AP story about the latest “racy” promotional campaign, CW Vice President of Marketing Rick Haskins said. “This sort of campaign resonates with someone who likes Gossip Girl – specifically women ages 18 - 34.”  He also said the pictures and headlines were a “tongue-in-cheek way (to) capture what the show is about.”

Which means the show is about teenagers having sex.  It also regularly includes story lines dealing with drug use and underage drinking – things about which parents are understandably concerned.  Apparently CW thinks parental concerns are irrelevant if not downright funny. 

And while Haskins might like to spin the demographics about who “likes” Gossip Girl and who the “target audience” is, the facts tell a different story.  The facts are that when the show debuted last fall it was the top-rated new show among 12- to17-year-olds, according to Media Life magazine.  And while Gossip Girl doesn't crack the top 100 shows in Nielsen Media Research ratings, it is very popular online. reports that the between iTunes downloads and DVR recordings Gossip Girl is the “most watched show by teenagers.”  

The fact that the show is viewed more online or via download to an iPod is disturbingly significant.  Even if a parent has used the V-chip or other blocking technology to prevent their teens from watching the show on broadcast television, it appears most kids are watching it via alternative media.  The reality of online viewing is a trend which makes protecting children from salacious entertainment content even more difficult.

Kristen Fyfe is senior writer at the Culture and Media Institute, a division of the Media Research Center.