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Marianne Paskowski

Do Condom Ads Belong on TV?

August 29, 2007 12:21 PM

Cable Positive’s president and CEO Steve Villano just became a blogger. Cable Positive is a nonprofit organization that raises awareness and money to slow down HIV/AIDS. For his first time out of the gate, he comes out swinging, taking to task CBS and Fox as well as several Cox and Comcast systems for refusing to run an ad from Trojan, entitled “Evolve: Use A Condom.”

He wrote how hypocritical that stand is, given that television airs plenty of programming that is sexually explicit. None of those outlets would even air the spot at late night. And, he added, there was nothing salacious, but only educational about the Trojan ad. I commend his guts. Condoms can help stop the rise of sexually transmitted diseases and HIV.

While he certainly won’t lose future funding from CBS and Fox, two broadcast networks, Comcast and Cox might not like being publicly taken to task. You can see what he has to say at http://cablepositive.blogspot.com/

And weigh in here if you think condom ads belong on late night TV or not. My vote is yes.


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Comments (14)

Fern Siegel:

If the Super Bowl can run erectile dysfunction ads, why not condom ads? (Would CBS, Fox, Cox or Comcast refuse to air such ads?) We're all in favor of people acting sexually responsible. Plus, using condoms is a health safeguard. Fox won't run a condom ad, but it will run salacious reality shows, such as "Temptation Island." If any network airs sexually provocative programming, isn't it reasonable to show sexually responsible advertising?

Marianne Paskowski:


Ah, my favorite wordsmith weighs in with her cogent observations.



The Trojan ads not only should be allowed to air during late night, but throughout the day.

A few things to note:

The creative is not about hawking a brand name or speaking to sexual pleasure. Its focus is on behaving repsonsibly and preventing STD's. Since Trojan has a 75% market share, if a consumer is buying condoms, he's likely to be purchasing Trojans anyway.

We are in a relatively strong broadcast economy, and the networks are in a position to turn away business from products that could "offend" some of the audience among their 200+ affiliates. If we were in a broadcast recession, the networks would take money from any source, and the condom ads would be more pervasive.

Prescription contraceptives and personal lubricants for women air extensively in network daytime. Liquor ads are running on several cable networks from 10pm onward, in shows like South Park, which has a strong teen following.

Many of the programs that air in what used to be called the "family hour" have sexual content and innuendoed dialogue that is far more risque than the Trojan ads.

And, once again, it is amazing that our culture accepts unconditional graphic violence in its movies and television programs, but hides behind the argument of protecting its children when the slightest hint of human sexuality is injected.

No wonder the Brits booted the Puritans across the pond.

Marianne Paskowski:


Well said, but the Brits and, well the rest of the world are more sane about sex, they hate violence. American television seems to thrive on it.

Thanks for the post,

David Grabert:

Your supposition that cable distributor Cox Communications might not like being taken to task for this is correct -- particularly since Steve Villano's blog post was incorrect in identifying Cox Communications as one of the companies that turned down the condom ad.

In the NY Times article available at this link, http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/16/business/media/16adco.html?ex=1188532800&en=aa88fa376e429e9f&ei=5070, the Cox property involved is clearly identified as a Cox Television NBC affiliate. Cox Television and Cox Communications are two separate companies, both owned by Cox Enterprises.

Cox Communications (the cable distribution arm) has been an ardent supporter of Cable Positive both nationally and via a chapter that exists in the Atlanta market where we are headquartered.

One of the downsides of the blogosphere is that non-journalists may significantly impact a company's reputation with inaccurate or misleading information, available to anyone worldwide. Steve has promised a correction to his blog post (or a new entry addressing his mistake); we are looking forward to it.

Marianne Paskowski:

Hi David G,

Thanks for pointing this out. I just rechecked the link to Cable Positive and I don't see a correction from them yet. I'm sure it will come.

I had spoken with Steve Villano before I wrote my blog or I never would have written about the topic.

I can understand your frustration. I take this blog very seriously as a journalist, and apologize for passing on a link written by a non-journo without calling you first to verify the information. But I did send it out to you after the fact. And glad I did,or the wrong info on an esoteric blogsite would have been forever under the radar, and you might not have known. Glad you are on the case. And glad the record is straight vis-a-vis- Cox,on my end.

That's what the blog is all about sometimes, fixing up unintended messes. Thanks for the link to the Times for other readers to get a better grasp of what is really going on at your company. Hope this helps.

Marianne Paskowski


I agree with you. The networks should air condom ads. Especially CBS which, as a recent part of Viacom, was involved in the KnowAIDS public affairs campaign. On top of that, it's just hypocritical for the broadcast networks to air programming with sexual content and then forbid condom ads. It seems they apply their Puritanical standards when it suits them.

Marianne Paskowski:

Hi Kathy,

Thanks for reminding us about the CBS venture with Viacom about KnowAIDS. Your point is well taken.

Thanks for chiming in on the thread,


I take my blog very seriously as the head of Cable Positive, responsible for educating the public—and the cable industry—with accurate information about HIV/AIDS. I’ve attached my correspondence with David Grabert of Cox, immediately following the publication of my blog on the condom issue.

I can fax you the copy of the New York Times article—the link of which I provided to David—before the Times corrected its mistake of referring to “Cox Television” as “Cox Communications.” For my own research and reference purposes, I printed the Times article out on July 17, 2007, when Ray Carter’s quote was clearly “We’re owned by Cox Communications.” My mistake was relying upon the Times for accuracy, and not calling David directly for confirmation.

There has never been a question of Cox Cable’s support for Cable Positive—from David Grabert, as a former Cable Positive Atlanta Chapter co-chair, all the way up to Jim Robbins and Pat Esser, Cox has been a leader in supporting Cable Positive’s initiatives and the fight against HIV/AIDS at the local and national levels.

You may recall Pat Esser’s pledge, made at the Benefit Dinner honoring Jim Robbins, to donate $1 million of airtime for Cable Positive’s PSA campaign. Many folks at Cox, including Mae Douglas—a former Cable Positive Board Member--, Billy Farina—our present Cable Positive Board Member from Cox, Bobby Amirshari, Ellen East and present Atlanta Chapter co-chair Anthony Surratt have been leaders in the industry in backing the work of Cable Positive. Pat Esser, himself, has attended many local Atlanta Chapter/Cable Positive events, before he became CEO. The entire corporate culture at Cox Communications is open, accessible, diverse and committed to acting in a socially responsible fashion on important issues, such as HIV/AIDS.

With all of that said, and with my apologies made to David and our friends at Cox, I stand by the basic premise of the blog, which is that we—in the media, in public health, and in positions of power and influence which determine what gets aired—still have a lot of work to do, and a long way to go in educating the public about HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention. The leadership at Cox Cable is in a far better, and more influential, position than I am to have a positive impact upon decisions made by their parent company—Cox Enterprises—about the critical public health urgency of airing condom ads.

I am working on an entire blog entry correcting my mistake, highlighting the positive work Cox Communications has done in the fight against HIV/AIDS. However, I will not pull back from pressuring cable networks and cable systems around the country to do much, much more in educating the public about HIV/AIDS prevention. The scientific evidence has long been in—regular condom usage is highly effective in preventing the transmission of the HIV virus. Our industry—and several others—have an enormous social responsibility to communicate that message, and to help save lives.



Steve Villano


Cable Positive


Main(212) 459-1506

Cell (917) 562-3030

Fax (212) 459-1631

Cable Positive

1775 Broadway

Suite 433

New York, NY 10019



Marianne Paskowski:

Hi Steve,
You and I subsequently, made honest mistakes. Thanks for your comment back on this blog explaining how supportive the Cox cable side has been of your efforts.

I totally agree with what you said in your blog and you can see from the responses that all others do as well. Nice catching up with you and good luck with fighting the fight, a very important one, and now with your blog.

Blogs, I have learned this past year or so, can be very useful tools at digging out the truth. And you just did.



Hey Steve,Nice free advertisement. Why dont you put your home # there? Idiot.

Marianne Paskowski:


Think what you will, but why hasn't Steve fixed his blog yet? That gets under my skin. I don't mind him giving out all of his details, but I fixed my mistake, linking to what he said on his blog, and his correction is overdue. It's not my responsibility to fix his blog. It's his.

Thanks for keeping everyone on their toes,



Actually, Marianne, we fixed it twice: once, immediately after our mistakes were called to our attention, we edited out any reference to Cox or Comcast. Then, we received detailed information directly from Trojan about usage of the spots and posted our latest blog--completely devoted to clearing up the matter. Check it out at www.cablepositive.org.

And we did this while we've been running the nation's largest, industry-related, AIDS education and awareness non-profit organization that has donated more than one billion dollars of airtime to the cause. And, all this we did during Diversity Week, one of the cable television industry's biggest and busiest weeks of the year, while we were conducting a Chapter Leadership Summitt, a fundraising benefit, preparing for a full Board of Directors meeting, expanding our programs of outreach and assistance around the world, and attending Diversity Week meetings, workshops and events.

It sure would be nice to have the luxury of time to use all of it to research and write a blog. But, at the core of Cable Positive's mission is that we have lives to save.

Thanks for all of your support through the years for Cable Positive's work in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

Steve Villano,
President/CEO, Cable Positive

Marianne Paskowski:


Thanks for letting us know. Yes, I feel like, you, it would be nice to have the luxury of time to research and write a blog. You did your best, and it was good. I do my best and whatever.


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