Study: Charlie Sheen May Be Safe Again for Brands — But Is Sanitized Version Too Boring for Prime Time?

Jul 19, 2012  •  Post A Comment

By Jeanine Poggi
Advertising Age

The stigma surrounding Charlie Sheen appears to be lifting among viewers, making the actor a less risky prospect for advertisers.

According to a new study by market research firm Vision Critical, feelings towards the often erratic actor are improving, which could bode well for his latest TV project, FX’s "Anger Management."

Mr. Sheen has made headlines in recent years for his wild personal life, which included a public dispute with "Two and a Half Men" showrunner Chuck Lorre that resulted in halting production of the sitcom.

But during DirecTV’s recent ad campaign that featured Mr. Sheen, Vision Critical surveyed viewers asking their emotional reaction to the ad on a moment-by-moment basis. On the whole, 79% of viewers were "amused" by Mr. Sheen. While the other 31% did experience some "annoyed" reactions, negative responses were low among viewers under the age of 65, according to Vision Critical.

"Viewers’ emotional reactions show that Charlie Sheen is still entertaining, and surprisingly low risk. Both the DirecTV and Fiat ads featuring Sheen play off his recent notoriety," said Jeff Vidler, senior VP-media research, Vision Critical. "That said, early reviews of his new show have found it ‘safe’ and ‘conventional,’ so it remains to be seen how long his notoriety can be leveraged for entertainment value."

It seems Mr. Sheen’s antics have been put on the back burner, and viewers tuned in to "Anger Management" in droves when it premiered to see his return to the small screen. But since the first episode, ratings have declined considerably, losing more than 2 million viewers. In its fourth episode, "Anger Management" brought in 2.4 million viewers, according to Nielsen; this compares with about 5.7 million for its premiere.

FX has ordered 10 episodes in total and after those run the cable network must decide if it will greenlight another 90.

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