Swingtown Swings for Sleaze Fences; Advertisers Head for Exits

Roughly 8.5 million viewers tuned in for the June 5 debut of the CBS drama Swingtown, an ode to the wife-swapping of the 1970sOnly 4.6 million tuned into last week's episode. 

Granted, it's summertime and last week's episode aired at the start of the July 4th weekend.   But take into account the show's hemorrhaging of advertisers, and you can't help but wonder if CBS really did get too edgy with Swingtown.

AdAge.com reported on July 7 that networks “want some fare that appeals to younger crowds, but when they come up with it, it often meets with disapproval from other parts of their audience – and scares advertisers.”

For example, Philips North America advertised its Norelco razor during Swingtown's premiere and received consumer complaints about the show's racy content.  AdAge noted that Philips “is not scheduled to run additional commercials during the program” but it is unclear if this decision was made after receiving the complaints.  

An unnamed spokesperson from CBS told AdAge, “Like any show with daring subject matter, some clients opt out, but others come in.” CMI compared the advertising in the premiere to that in the latest episode, however, and found that Swingtown is losing far more advertisers than it's attracting.   

Forty-one commercials ran during Swingtown's premiere.  Ten spots promoted other CBS programming, eight were movie ads, three “teased” the local news, and two spots were ads for local businesses.  Fourteen national companies shared the other eighteen spots.  The companies included Vagisil, Philips North America, Overstock.com, Oxyclean, DirectTV, Comcast, Aleve, RoomStore, PBpipe.com, and Time Life.  No American car companies advertised during Swingtown, but Volkswagen, Hyundai and Nissan all did. 

Thirty-three commercials aired during last week's episode,.  Nine of the spots were purchased by seven national companies: Dannon, Hyundai, Honda, Vagisil, Marlo, Verizon Wireless, and Time Life.  The remaining 24 spots were divided between local ads and programming (8), CBS programming (11) and movie trailers (5).   

That's ten major corporations lost, and three added, for a net loss of seven.  And a spokesman for one of the three new companies, Dannon, told AdAge, “We did not identify this program in particular for our ads to appear,” but that the company had “purchased a 'rotation' throughout CBS programming.” 

For more on what the critics had to say about Swingtown, click here.


Colleen Raezler is a research assistant at the Culture and Media Institute, a division of the Media Research Center