“In the late ’80s,” said William J. Abbott, executive VP of ad sales for Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movie Channel, “if you were a family, you were boring. You weren’t hip.”
The Association of National Advertisers set out to change that attitude a decade ago, creating the Family Friendly Forum with seven advertisers.
The forum recently rebranded itself, forming the ANA Alliance for Family Entertainment. The coalition of nearly 40 major advertisers, including FedEx, Procter & Gamble, Home Depot, Schering, Sears and others, represents nearly a third of all U.S. TV ad dollars. Its mission is altered only in size: It seeks to promote family-friendly content not just on TV, but across multiple distribution platforms.
The CW will air the Alliance’s 10th annual awards show, now billed as the 2008 Family Entertainment Awards, on Dec. 12. The show, which has been produced for nine years by Dick Clark Productions, recognizes actors, producers and programs that support family-friendly ideals. This year its host is Tyler James Williams (“Everybody Hates Chris”) and it promises to show the “Top 10 Family Moments of the Year in network, cable, feature film and more.”
The Alliance also offers a script development fund to help finance family-friendly scripts and a scholarship program for students who work on family-friendly projects. It also hosts an annual symposium to educate writers, producers, networks and press on family-friendly programming.
Mr. Abbott, who has been in family programming sales for 20 years, said the evolution of family-friendly programming has “gone from milquetoast to highly acclaimed, much-touted fare, due in large part to the advertisers who underwrite the [ANA Alliance].”
The Alliance has funded 52 scholarships at university television studies departments, including Carnegie Mellon and Loyola Marymount, to spark student interest and encourage future television writers to develop family-friendly themes. Shows including “Chuck,” “The New Adventures of Old Christine,” “Gilmore Girls,” “Ugly Betty,” “Everybody Hates Chris” and “Friday Night Lights” have all been developed at least in part with the Alliance’s family-friendly money, though the fund has no influence over a series after the development of the pilot.