Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby. And Disney. Have I Piqued Your Interest?

Advice: The following blog contains mature content.

At the Ypulse Mashup in July, two amazing people joined my table for lunch. I was hosting a discussion on using tech to build a brand and these two folks described their struggle. They actually have the “tech” part figured out. The problem is the brand. Or more to the point: their product. I think it’s absolutely awesome, but it tends to scare people. Their product is sex. Well, more fairly put: sex education.

The Midwest Teen Sex Show is an amazing set of webisodes that tell the truth about sex (and all its fancy flavors). I used to listen to Loveline with Dr Drew and Adam Carolla and I was always amazed at what teens did (and didn’t) know about sex. If you think about it, so many teens know just enough to be dangerous; we tease them with bits of information but never the full story. I thought that show was so good because Dr Drew honestly answered kids’ questions while Adam provided the humor (because let’s face it, the subject can make one a little tense). [Note: turns out Loveline is still one – show’s how old I am – and you can learn more about it here!]

[If you clicked out to watch the Midwest Teen Sex Show and are sitting there with your mouth hanging open, hang in there, you’ll be okay. They are honest and direct but seriously, you have seen worse on your TV, currently being rerun on TBS. You really have.]


The Midwest Teen Sex Show is direct like Loveline – providing honest, funny, straightforward advice to young people who often can’t get the answers anywhere else. So what does this have to do with Disney? Well, here’s the thing. The Midwest gang needs sponsors but they are having a hard time because, you know, it makes people blush.

Meanwhile, over on ABC Family, Disney has rolled out a new show called “The Secret Life of the American Teenager.” Vicki Collier, VP Digital Media for Disney-ABC TV talked about the show briefly at Ypulse explaining the surprise hit and how it has generated a lot of web traffic for the company. The show has raised some eyebrows.

I watch a lot of tween and teen television because of my daughter and it helps me do my job, but when I watched this show, I ended up turning it off. It seemed the entire show was focused on teenage sex – not love, not relationships, not even education – just sex. But get this – it has sponsors.

So this leads me to my big question:
how is it advertisers have no problem throwing money at a Disney show that really features the worst of American youth and yet don’t have the courage to sponsor a website that is working to bring out the best in our youth? The Midwest Teen Sex Show may not offer content that makes everyone feel comfortable; but it’s truthful, funny and the underlying message is to protect yourself, your feelings and your health.

“Secret Life” is broadcast on cable television – available in most homes – and broadcasts during the day. Children at home have easy access and chances are there’s no one there to help them “process” what they are watching. The Midwest Teen Sex Show is available only online and you have to choose the content you want to see. There are discussion groups and referrals to experts who can offer more help.

I encourage brands that cater to youth to do more than make the easy media buy. If you really care about the health and well being of your customer base, you have an opportunity to support something beyond the obvious. Yes, it’s not for everyone and it should make business sense but at least consider sponsoring the Midwest Teen Sex Show. Help something good become something great.