Last month we previewed a new television series which, as we predicted, was bound to stir up some controversy. Called “All American Muslim,” it detailed the lives of a group of Muslim families living in the vicinity of Dearborn, Michigan. It’s been on the air for only a few weeks, but the brouhaha has begun as one group is protesting the show and demanding that advertisers pull their spots.
Lowe’s, the national hardware chain, has pulled commercials from future episodes of “All-American Muslim,” a TLC reality-TV show, after protests by Christian groups.
The Florida Family Association, a Tampa Bay group, has led a campaign urging companies to pull ads on “All-American Muslim.” The FFA contends that 65 of 67 companies it has targeted have pulled their ads, including Bank of America, the Campbell Soup Co., Dell, Estee Lauder, General Motors, Goodyear, Green Mountain Coffee, McDonalds, Sears, and Wal-Mart.
“’All-American Muslim’ is propaganda clearly designed to counter legitimate and present-day concerns about many Muslims who are advancing Islamic fundamentalism and Sharia law,” the Florida group asserts in a letter it asks members to send to TLC advertisers.
It’s unclear whether the demands of the FFA have led to much direct action on the part of advertisers. As the article notes, at least two of the companies listed had only purchased one ad and simply didn’t buy any more. And Amway issued a flat denial of having pulled their advertising.
I’m still not clear exactly what the FFA is basing their complaint on, though. They’re saying that the show is “misleading” but how so? Because they are showing Muslim-Americans with jobs and families rather than showing people blowing up buildings? The stated description of the show seems to be fairly clear.
All-American Muslim takes a look at life in Dearborn, Michigan–home to the largest mosque in the United States–through the lens of five Muslim American families.
Each episode offers an intimate look at the customs and celebrations, misconceptions and conflicts these families face outside and within their own community.
Either way, protests like this generally produce the precise opposite effect than the one intended by groups like FFA. Companies advertise to make money and they want to sell to everyone as much as is possible. They don’t tend to want to get drawn into divisive controversies like this, and if they’re going to pull their advertising, they’ll generally do it quietly and simply stop making ad buys.
In the meantime, starting such a protest draws media attention, generates controversy, and pretty much acts as free advertising for the show on a broader scale than the network could ever afford through conventional marketing. It will be interesting over the next few weeks to see what happens with its ratings. It debuted with a modest 1.7M viewers (not a shockingly high or low number for a ten PM Sunday night slot) and in its third week had dropped nearly 50% to roughly one million.