Hitting bottom: My daughters’ favorite radio station promotes Kesha’s “hot ass.”
August 2, 2011
I have three little girls, aged 8, 9 and 12. I have a wife whose age I will spare you (her). That means I’m driving a lot, to riding lessons, to sleepovers, to camp. This also means I’m listening to lot of silly pop music on the car radio. Though I think little of today’s popular music I don’t mind listening to it…sort of. I consider it a necessary evil in terms of staying current, which I feel is absolutely necessary for any creative person, especially one who makes a living in Adland. A liberal arts education never stops. Relevancy is a defining feature of any good copywriter. How in hell can one write ad copy for radio, for example, without knowing what is being played on it? Like it or not, one needs to consume popular media in order to contribute to it. This goes without saying, though I wonder how many creative ad people pay attention to what the majority of consumers are listening to. Precious few I’d wager.
Speaking of the radio, the other day, while I was driving my girls to the barn I had on one of their favorite radio stations, either 101.9, MIX FM or 103.5, KISS FM. They go back and forth so I forget which one. Either way, these are loud and popular stations, featuring top 40 music and screaming DJ’s, with (I think) identical formats all over the country.
After an interminable set of music from Brittany, Rihanna and Katy Perry came the interminable flight of commercials. As you would expect, we heard from a raft of summer advertisers such as Six Flags amusement park and various big box retailers hawking back-to-school specials. In addition (and this is what I want to talk about), there was a commercial from Disney hailing child auditions for some new show in the fall. “Your kid can be on TV, alongside celebrities like Selena Gomez!” Fine. I get it. With young girls being primary listeners a casting call promotion only makes sense. But then this, a pre-recorded station promotion: “Hi ya’ll. This is Kesha. It’s summertime and that means it’s HOT. You know what else is hot? My ASS!”
I nearly spit my Starbucks. In the parlance of a 12-year old girl: OMG! How can a radio station that thrives on girly content for girly girls run something like that? Don’t the program managers have a say in what constitutes appropriate programming, or do they even care? Especially considering the bawdy promotion came on the heels of an advert for Disney? Not too long ago, when I worked at Leo Burnett, we had Disney as a client. Disney had strict rules for what their messages would look and sound like. Needless to say, the word “ass” was not something we put into their ad copy.
Times change, I’m well aware of that. Listen closely to most of the music and it’s all partying and booty calls. Katy Perry’s hit, Last Friday Night is about one long blackout. But in her defense, she is an (gulp) artist. Same as Kesha. When I was a kid, heavy metal dominated my favorite radio stations and bands like Van Halen sang about the same damn things. Hence the term, “sex, drugs and rock and roll.”
Yet, then as now, Advertisers typically hold to a higher standard. And, then as now, I think that’s mostly a good thing. Call me old-fashioned but does Kesha’s self-described “HOT ASS” belong in a commercial block with Disney, on a radio station for little girls and their moms? I don’t care what year it is I don’t want my 8-year old daughter thinking about hot asses, hers or anyone else’s. Do you?