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Hot consumers, advertising mess

BET's Hot Ghetto Mess logo

TEXT OF STORY

Doug Krizner: "Hot Ghetto Mess" is the name of a new reality series from the Black Entertainment Television cable network. The show hasn't even aired, but it's already generated controversy and some big name advertisers are rethinking just how edgy they're willing to be. Elizabeth Wynne Johnson reports.


Elizabeth Wynne Johnson: From do-rags and bling to pimped-out SUVs, "Hot Ghetto Mess' points a lens at the extremes in urban fashion and behavior.

Producers say the show will provoke hard questions about contemporary African-American culture. Critics call it cynical racial stereotyping.

Those critics include a blog called What About Our Daughters? which calls out negative depictions of black women. Criticism led to threats of a boycott against advertisers on the original "Hot Ghetto Mess" website.

That's when businesses that bought ad time in the upcoming TV debut started to get skittish.

Home Depot and State Farm Insurance both had their ads moved to other shows. The cable network may not be losing any money now, says Kansas City Star TV critic Aaron Barnhart, but BET should worry if the question becomes . . .

Aaron Barnhart: Do State Farm and Home Depot want to be identified with this brand as a whole?

On the other hand, The Hollywood Reporter's Andrew Wallenstein says it could prove the theory that 'all publicity is good publicity.'

Andrew Wallenstein: The truth is that cultivating controversy, particularly on cable programming, often ends up as something like free marketing. And it often more than covers the cost of the advertiser or two or three pulling out.

The show premieres in a couple of weeks.

In Los Angeles, I'm Elizabeth Wynne Johnson for Marketplace.

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