Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby. And Disney. Have I Piqued Your Interest?

Advice: The following blog contains mature content.

At the Ypulse Mashup in July, two amazing people joined my table for lunch. I was hosting a discussion on using tech to build a brand and these two folks described their struggle. They actually have the “tech” part figured out. The problem is the brand. Or more to the point: their product. I think it’s absolutely awesome, but it tends to scare people. Their product is sex. Well, more fairly put: sex education.

The Midwest Teen Sex Show is an amazing set of webisodes that tell the truth about sex (and all its fancy flavors). I used to listen to Loveline with Dr Drew and Adam Carolla and I was always amazed at what teens did (and didn’t) know about sex. If you think about it, so many teens know just enough to be dangerous; we tease them with bits of information but never the full story. I thought that show was so good because Dr Drew honestly answered kids’ questions while Adam provided the humor (because let’s face it, the subject can make one a little tense). [Note: turns out Loveline is still one – show’s how old I am – and you can learn more about it here!]

[If you clicked out to watch the Midwest Teen Sex Show and are sitting there with your mouth hanging open, hang in there, you’ll be okay. They are honest and direct but seriously, you have seen worse on your TV, currently being rerun on TBS. You really have.]

The Midwest Teen Sex Show is direct like Loveline – providing honest, funny, straightforward advice to young people who often can’t get the answers anywhere else. So what does this have to do with Disney? Well, here’s the thing. The Midwest gang needs sponsors but they are having a hard time because, you know, it makes people blush.

Meanwhile, over on ABC Family, Disney has rolled out a new show called “The Secret Life of the American Teenager.” Vicki Collier, VP Digital Media for Disney-ABC TV talked about the show briefly at Ypulse explaining the surprise hit and how it has generated a lot of web traffic for the company. The show has raised some eyebrows.

I watch a lot of tween and teen television because of my daughter and it helps me do my job, but when I watched this show, I ended up turning it off. It seemed the entire show was focused on teenage sex – not love, not relationships, not even education – just sex. But get this – it has sponsors.

So this leads me to my big question:
how is it advertisers have no problem throwing money at a Disney show that really features the worst of American youth and yet don’t have the courage to sponsor a website that is working to bring out the best in our youth? The Midwest Teen Sex Show may not offer content that makes everyone feel comfortable; but it’s truthful, funny and the underlying message is to protect yourself, your feelings and your health.

“Secret Life” is broadcast on cable television – available in most homes – and broadcasts during the day. Children at home have easy access and chances are there’s no one there to help them “process” what they are watching. The Midwest Teen Sex Show is available only online and you have to choose the content you want to see. There are discussion groups and referrals to experts who can offer more help.

I encourage brands that cater to youth to do more than make the easy media buy. If you really care about the health and well being of your customer base, you have an opportunity to support something beyond the obvious. Yes, it’s not for everyone and it should make business sense but at least consider sponsoring the Midwest Teen Sex Show. Help something good become something great.

3 thoughts on “Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby. And Disney. Have I Piqued Your Interest?

  1. Jen, Wish we would’ve met at Ypulse; I wrote about the SexTech conference/sex ed videos last year and totally agree with Nora:http://www.shapingyouth.org/blog/?p=997 We clearly have a similar take on the sponsor issue too…Last Aug., when Disney’s ABC Family show ‘Greek’ blindsided me, I wrote a very similar post on the ‘huh?’ factor coming out of the mouse house: http://www.shapingyouth.org/blog/?p=565And tonight, in Tivo-ing the Olympic ceremony, I just noticed my 13 year old has set ‘Secret Life’ as a ‘season pass’ per her gal pal who ‘said it was good’ at the sleepover last night! ugh. Thanks for the heads up; it’s sorely lacking in redeeming plotlines.As parents (and sponsors) I think we get ‘brand-fatigue’ and conveniently associate content with brands via shorthand…(much like logos, which have done dumb things like sanction baby tv/videos as an electronic pacifier by free associating w/trusted orgs, despite the AAP ‘no tv under two’ reco)Consumers tend to equate the brand with ‘must be ok/wholesome’ and shrug it off sans due diligence. (well, you don’t and I don’t, but that’s our gig) Same thing applies to those ‘smart choices made easy’ self-awarded seals of approval from PepsiCo; when the only thing smart about it is you’re buying a ‘less junky product WITHIN their own product line’) Sigh.As for Midwest Teen Sex show; yah, ‘controversy’ makes sponsors squirm (we’re not funded either at Shaping Youth, not because we can’t be, though I am pretty outspoken…But because as a nonprofit, I’m picky/squirmy on WHO I align with to ensure I’m not beholden to anyone, which would tank me cred-wise) We should chat sometime! I’m so behind in my Ypulse posts it’s not even funny, so I was glad to see yours surface reminding me that this is ALL relevant and timely, no matter when we cover it, so to just take a deep breath and blog away!p.s. If you run across any CSR ‘good guys’ that are not shy about tackling some of these issues on media and marketing’s impact on kids…give me a heads up, or send ’em my way, too! I’m looking at firms FAR removed from the kids direct mktg. maelstrom w/a vested interest in healthier kids! (e.g. hospitals, banks, life insurance, etc.) –Best, Amy J.

  2. Nora: Thanks for leaving information about your site. It too is terrific and a great resource for teens – and you have a special area for kids in crisis (parents, take note). I agree, brands that have relevance should be lending their (financial) support. Let’s keep making noise. Jen

  3. Hey-Thanks for addressing this issue. We also provide honest, accurate sex education for teens at http://www.sexetc.org and find it terribly ironic that even companies who make sexual health products don’t want to advertise on a teen site. (I guess it’s only okay for married, adults to use condoms, right?) I wish some major company would take leadership in supporting what the overwhelming majority of Americans want – sex ed, honestly. -SexEdLady, http://www.sexetc.org

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