Wednesday, May 23, 2001

2 stations pull shark ads off air




By Mike Chambers
The Associated Press

        Two Kentucky television stations have pulled commercials by the Newport Aquarium, complaining that the woman who cried “Shark!” was too much like the boy who cried “Wolf!”

        The segments featured a fictional television reporter who is knocked into the Ohio River, it is inferred, by a shark. The segment was made to promote a new shark exhibit at the aquarium across from Cincinnati and is packaged as a live breaking news story gone awry.

        News stations WLKY-TV in Louisville and WTVQ-TV in Lexington pulled the ads over the past two weeks because they too closely resemble actual breaking news segments.

        Lisa Popyk, senior marketing manager for Newport Aquarium, told The Kentucky Enquirer Tuesday that no Greater Cincinnati viewers confused the ads with actual TV reports.

        “We didn't expect any,” Ms. Popyk said.

        No Lexington viewers complained of being duped by the ads, said Bill Stanley, general manager of WTVQ. He said he sees the humor in the ads, but he also had a problem with the segment's attention-grabbing audible tone at the beginning because he said it was too similar to breaking weather stories and real news.

        “I think we try to be good stewards of the airwaves,” Mr. Stanley said.

        “My concern is conditioning. The next time I have a situation where I need to get the public's attention and they become conditioned to thinking that's just the shark commercial,” Mr. Stanley said.

        Mr. Stanley said his station asked that the ads be modified to make it more clear that they were commercials. Ms. Popyk said there are no plans to do that.

        The spots depict a fictional reporter named Gail Storm announcing breaking news of shark sightings in the Ohio River. It is the second of three commercials in an advertising campaign promoting the aquarium's Guardians of the Deep shark exhibit, which opened May 12.

        An earlier commercial depicted shark fins cutting through the water on the Ohio River. Ms. Popyk said the third commercial, which was still in production, would proclaim that all sharks seen in the river have been corraled — at Newport Aquarium.

        “We really don't want Aunt Bessie to wake up from her knitting and think sharks really have invaded the Ohio River,” Ms. Popyk told The Associated Press. “We thought this was a fun spot.”

        The commercials were meant to spoof accounts of sharks being found in freshwater, Ms. Popyk said. Sharks are saltwater fish, but some species can survive in fresh water.

        Other television stations in Cincinnati, Dayton, Indianapolis, Lexington and Louisville have run the ads.

        Jim Carter, general manager of WLKY, said the commercials depicting a television news “special report” were pulled about two weeks ago after running a day. No viewers complained, he said.

        “In my opinion, the basic tenant of our relationship with the news viewers is trust,” Mr. Carter said. “In my opinion, if we are going to use the words "special report' in that kind of environment, then what's to follow is important information the viewers need to know,” Mr. Carter said.

        Ray Schaefer contributed to this report.

       



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