July 27, 2021

Advertising: Marketers, Seeking Family Show, Hold Script Contest

The contest sought scripts for 30-minute situation comedies about modern family life. More than 235 scripts were submitted during the contest, which was won by a young freelance writer whose entry, “O’Connell for Congress,” is about a dysfunctional family turned upside down when the father runs for office.

The contest was sponsored by what is known as the ANA Alliance for Family Entertainment. The initials stand for the Association of National Advertisers, the trade organization for marketers. All 34 members of the alliance also belong to the association.

Those members include major ad spenders like ATT, Campbell Soup, General Mills, Johnson Johnson, Kraft Foods, Mars, McDonald’s, Procter Gamble, Verizon and Wal-Mart Stores. The goal of the alliance, which began in 1998 as the Family Friendly Programming Forum, is to encourage broadcast networks to add to their prime-time schedules more shows that can be watched together by parents and children.

The contest is “a great opportunity to encourage the type of programming we feel is important,” said Colleen Milway, global media director at the Campbell Soup Company, and “create buzz and excitement around the idea of supporting family-friendly programming.”

“We want to make sure we’re reaching our core consumer group, moms and families,” she added, and running commercials in shows they like “makes engagement that much greater.”

More than 20 shows on six networks have been supported by the alliance through efforts like a script-development fund, among them “Everybody Hates Chris,” “Friday Night Lights” and “Gilmore Girls.” One, “Chuck,” on NBC, is still running, but will finish its fifth and final season on Friday. “There was a belief there’d be a momentum in the marketplace for family-friendly programming,” said Robert D. Liodice, president and chief executive of the association, but recently “reality programming has begun to push family programming to the back burner.”

“So our coalition has had to re-strategize and take a different tack,” he added, “and out of a lot of different ideas came the contest.”


The winner, Megan Angelo, of Jersey City, is a freelancer for publications including Glamour, Marie Claire and The New York Times. She receives $5,000 and a chance for her script to be offered to the networks.

“I can’t believe any of this is happening,” said Ms. Angelo, who lists among her favorite sitcoms “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” “New Girl” and “Parks and Recreation.”

Ms. Angelo, 27, said she learned about the contest from her husband, Erik Parker, a software engineer, who read about it on a comedy blog, SplitSider, that he follows because he is “also a sketch comedian.”

(Now there’s an idea for a sitcom.)

Among the judges of the contest was John Wells, executive producer of series including “ER,” “Shameless,” “Southland” and “The West Wing.” Mr. Wells will be a mentor to Ms. Angelo, working with her on the script.

“There’s always a lot of talented people around who are not in Hollywood making a living,” Mr. Wells said, adding that he was “very taken with the irreverence” of “O’Connell for Congress,” whose title character turns to politics after being far less successful in business than his wife.

Ten or 15 years ago, such a script might not have passed muster as family entertainment, Mr. Wells said, but today “the audience has a much larger definition of what ‘family friendly’ or ‘family viewing’ should be.”

“The idea got a bad rap because it had some political implications,” he added, associated with the term “family values,” but series like “Modern Family” are just as much about “generosity and kindness and love” as traditional sitcoms.

Ms. Milway of Campbell Soup echoed him. “We want to be relevant in today’s time, relevant to consumers as we see them now,” she said, and the company takes “an open-minded approach” in evaluating the content of shows in which it buys commercials.

“Our preference would be more wholesome family programming that doesn’t rise to the level of controversy,” she added, with scripts that “are more meaningful over time and can live on in syndication,” unlike say, a “sensational” reality show that may be “the high-rated program” for only a brief time.

Although the days when Campbell Soup sponsored family series like “Lassie” are unlikely to return, there is a demand for contemporary versions of such shows, George Carey, a marketing consultant, said.

“A lot of advertisers are hypnotized by the allure of narrowly targeted audiences like tween boys born in November under full moons,” said Mr. Carey, chief executive at the Family Room in Norwalk, Conn., a marketing consultancy formerly known as Just Kid Inc.

“But kids and parents are telling us they’re looking for ‘shared solutions,’ ways to come together to have fun,” he added, citing examples like the Nintendo Wii game console, so shows families could watch together would be “addressing a tremendous need.”


The alliance plans more efforts this year to urge the development of family-oriented series, including working with a network.

Mr. Wells said he was inspired to work on the contest by something that happened when he was starting out as a script writer.

Danny Arnold ran a very informal scholarship program,” he said, of the writer and producer who created sitcoms like “Barney Miller,” and “I had just finished my degree at U.S.C., and he gave me a small honorarium.

“That was the difference between being a writer or not,” he added.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=26fae797dddb5776a8eb5dcf28c32822

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