While leaning in at a recent pitch meeting, I presented the first episode of our new show
Bench Warmers to two programming execs at a major media company. They offered
this kernel of wisdom: eavesdropping on the sexually explicit conversation of four
middle-aged moms on a park bench, their kids playing nearby, is not "ad-friendly," not a
good fit for brand marketing.
Whoa... Not ad-friendly? Is it because these are middle-aged women discussing the
merits of hiring a babysitter for sex or the inexcusable inequalities in the nomenclature
of oral sex?
How could I argue? What precedents for this type of intimate entre-mère conversation
could I cite? Could I tweet Lena Dunham for an assist? Get Amy Schumer's phone
number? Oh wait, they're young and neither of them has kids... maybe that's the
unfriendly part. Would Tina Fey comment? Amy Poehler? Can't Kristen Wiig get knocked
up so she can weigh in here? There was only one thing to do... lean back and do a bit of
Here's what the research turned up: Alan gets caught masturbating multiple times on
Two and A Half Men, and Sammy jerks off so much he needs a door sign to that effect
on Blue Mountain State. There are clips from How I Met Your Mother, Rules of
Engagement, and It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia detailing blow jobs, sloppy seconds,
make-up sex, and porn, not to mention similar examples from perennial favorites
Seinfeld and Friends. Turns out sitcoms long ago turned into sexcoms, and -- brace
yourself -- it's all been on the advertiser's dime.
I'm not taking a position on the merits of sex on the small screen -- TV viewers have
spoken on that score. I am only pointing out that this reality is very much ad-supported
and that our favorite brands long ago decided that guys (dads even) jerking off, having
sex, and discussing it all is perfectly ad-friendly. Meanwhile, it seems moms playing in
that same sandbox remains off-limits.
Of course, men and women do talk, and think, about sex differently -- as they do about
plenty of other subjects. The problem is that those differences nearly always skew
toward the male POV when we package mass-market media products such as 22-minute
But here's the thing: middle-aged moms are a hugely valuable demographic for
advertisers. Which leads back to a show like Bench Warmers, and the programming
execs who should know that eavesdropping on the playground kaffeklatsches going on
around the country can lead to a bigger piece of the $2 trillion controlled by moms who
make 85 percent of household purchases. Underserviced, underserved, and untapped!
And if hearing the ladies of Bench Warmers confess that Brokeback Mountain was a
turn-on, or that Anne gets hot from her thong, or that Susan will only have sex on a
table if she can put a nice throw blanket down first doesn't suggest at least a dozen
ways to sell the next great tablet, or market the next great dramatic film, then leaning in
may not be enough. Those execs in media and advertising may just have to plop down in
front of a nearby laptop screen and learn about the ins and outs of middle-aged moms
and their salty, funny, honest conversations. The realization of their fantasies about how
many products could be sold may only require tuning in.
Adrienne Becker is CEO of Glass Elevator Media which produced Bench Warmers,
premiering on May 7 at www.benchwarmers.tv. The Network clips mentioned here can
be accessed on VIEWUR, a new social content portal, at
SELECT PRIME TIME TV CLIPS.
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