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television

Brands fight back over hate campaign against Telecinco reality show

Coca-Cola among firms to denounce anti-abortion group's attack on advertisers

Rosario G. Gómez
Campamento de verano contestant Noemí Merino, during the controversial "chocolate bath."
Campamento de verano contestant Noemí Merino, during the controversial "chocolate bath."

The people putting pressure on brands that advertise on Telecinco's reality show Campamento de verano (Summer Camp) have come up against the firms' corporate executives.

First it was the chairman of Coca-Cola España, Marcos de Quinto, who denounced an online hate campaign by HazteOir - a group that became famous for its anti-abortion activism - calling its members "extortionists" and "blackmailers."

Then, on Friday, it was Paolo Vasile, CEO of Mediaset, Telecinco's parent company, who came out with a theory about dark forces acting behind the scenes to bring his program down. "Everyone has the right to an opinion, but not to issue threats."

"You can't use just any old pretext to deride us," he added, in reference to HazteOir's appeal to Campamento de verano advertisers to take their money elsewhere over footage that showed one of the female contestants being covered with chocolate. In the show, contestants are made to live together for nine weeks inside campsite cabins and undergo a series of tests that will get most of them eliminated by September 9, the day of the finale.

HazteOir has collected 30,000 signatures in support of its actions

The activist group, which is widely defined as ultra-Catholic, launched a campaign to "eradicate programs that use the humiliation and ill-treatment of women to increase audience ratings." By mid-August it had collected 30,000 signatures in support of its actions.

Although the network apologized for the images, some advertisers immediately joined the boycott, including major brands such as Burger King, McDonald's and the insurance company Mutua Madrileña. A Coca-Cola spokesperson explains that the company did not buy advertising space on the reality show proper, but only aired a spot for Minute Maid on an evening summary. The company's position is clear: it has not pulled out of a program that it never sponsored to begin with.

Other brands that have been affected by the controversy say that when they purchase ad space on TV they don't do it on specific programs but on programming blocs, without knowing exactly what shows are going to be broadcast. "We are not responsible for the content, unless we want to be by acting as sponsors," said one spokesperson.

HazteOir is proud of what it considers a victory over "the leading example of Telecinco's summer trash." But a hard look at the ratings shows its campaign has had no effect on the audience. Last Thursday, Campamento de verano was watched by over 1.5 million people, scoring a 15-percent audience share, more than the station's average.

The group's slogan is "Say no to Telecinco and its prostitute programming"

Hazteoir's slogan, "Say no to Telecinco and its prostitute programming," did not make much of a dent on the main advertisers' group, either. The head of the Spanish Advertisers Association (AEA), Juan Ramón Plana, expressed his displeasure at the boycott and rejected the threats. "We advertisers cannot be the judge of all content," he said.

"Anyone who attempts to impose their intolerance or intransigence will find me standing in front of them," said Cola-Cola chief De Quinto, who also made it clear that he was not defending any particular type of programming. "What I'm doing is trying to prevent some people from exerting their pressure through brands or advertisers."

Paolo Vasile confirmed that the campaign has not had a negative effect on the reality show. "I am not concerned about the controversy. We've done very well, above expectations, even. Advertiser occupancy has been higher than the network average and the rest of the programming. There's been no alarm of any kind. We haven't lost a cent."

In fact, the Mediaset chief added that next summer, after the World Cup in Brazil, Telecinco will be airing a new season of Campamento de verano.

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