Art Streiber/ The CW
Gossip Girl's reputation is proceeding 90210.
A leading watchdog group that has been critical of Gossip Girl today warned advertisers about committing sight unseen to the upcoming Beverly Hills 90210 reboot.
"I think it's fair to say that the CW has been a bad actor, particularly when it comes to Gossip Girl," said Dan Isett, director of public policy for the Parents Television Council.
Both Gossip Girl and 90210 are CW shows.
Last week, the network confirmed it wasn't sending out advance copies of 90210, which is scheduled to premiere Sept 2. The CW described the move as a "strategic marketing decision."
"We haven't assumed anything about the show," Isett said. "But I think that the CW has already demonstrated that they'll stoop to any level in a rather desperate attempt to build buzz."
Isett frequently cited Gossip Girl, which he described as a "teenage sex drama type show," and linked the old show to the new, saying, "It stands to reason 90210 is going to be a similar type show."
Last spring, the CW and Gossip Girl drew the Parents Television Council's ire for its "sexually suggestive" "OMFG" ad campaign.
Isett couldn't comment on what response, if any, his group has received from advertisers on the 90210 front. "The ball has just started rolling," he said.
In the past, the Parents Television Council has rated headlines, and sometimes more, for calling out everything from Janet Jackson's bare Super Bowl breast to Paris Hilton's "sleazy" hamburger commercial.
In a statement, the CW maintained that its decision to keep 90210, a blend of fresh faces and West Beverly High veterans, led by Jennie Garth and Shannen Doherty, under wraps was marketing-related.
"Withholding the advance screener has nothing to do with content concerns," the network said.
Asked whether the show's premiere was already booked with ads, the network responded, "90210 has had strong demand and enthusiastic support from the advertising community since the moment the applause ceased at our 2008 upfront presentation."
Tig Tillinghast, publisher of MediaBuyerPlanner.com, downplayed the Parents Television Council/90210 controversy as "typical media mayhem fun," but said the group's objections could get an ad buyer thinking.
"Media buyers hate groups like the PTC, and they want to be able to ignore them," Tillinghast wrote in an email. "But they know as soon as their client gets about two letters from Nebraska, they'll pull a campaign. Buyers don't like that."
Advertising expert Adam Armbruster of ESA & Company said media storms like this usually end up in a win-win—that is, the activist group that pressured sponsors actually gets a sponsor to pull out of a show; the show targeted by the activist group actually gets a new viewer to tune in.
Considering the CW's low ratings, that last scenario might be especially beneficial to 90210.
Theorized Armbruster: "What's cooler for a teen than a show you don't want them to be watching?"