Aug 21, 2011 • By

Our advertising decisions

You can’t believe everything you read. Nowhere is that more true than on the Internet and on Twitter.

As you may have read, General Mills is not a sponsor of the television program “Pretty Little Liars.”

Last week, we received an inquiry expressing concern about the sexual orientation of characters on “Pretty Little Liars.” We responded that the program is not one that we sponsor.

An organization posted our response online, under the headline: “General Mills says NO to Pretty Little Liars Lesbian Content.”

That is and was incorrect.

As we have explained to bloggers all weekend, the sexual orientation of characters was not a factor in our decision. General Mills does not make advertising placement decisions based on the sexual orientation of characters. Nor was our decision the result of external pressure from any group.

We made our decision based on audience demographics. We also considered program content, which has evolved into areas such as stalking and student-teacher relationships. The sexual orientation of characters on the program wasn’t a factor. But that hasn’t stopped a stream of angry tweets.

What’s the right thing to do in an instance like this?

We re-contacted the group that made the original inquiry. We explained our decision again.

We’ve spoken to bloggers and online media. Most have posted our comment verbatim, and have been quite fair. Some have chided us. Some have questioned our veracity. But at least they’ve printed our comment.

Reasonable voices have been reasonable – cautioning that things may not be what they appear. More strident voices have been harsh, dismissing the facts as “lies.”

What we’ve said is the truth. General Mills doesn’t make advertising placement decisions based on the sexual orientation of characters. We didn’t in this instance. We haven’t in others.

But will it matter?

I am often the point person on such questions, and I could certainly share with you explanations for why we are not an advertiser on some programs and why we continue to advertise on others.

Unfortunately, the world is now a place where the truth isn’t always believed, especially on the Internet.

The conundrum is that the best place to respond and explain… is probably on the Internet and Twitter.