Behind the ManCrunch Ad

by Jim Halterman

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Thursday February 4, 2010

Who knew that a television commercial promoting a gay dating site would generate so much controversy in just a few days? That's exactly what's happened since a new website called tried, and failed, to land a spot to be aired during the Super Bowl (this Sunday on CBS.) With news that a pro-life ad had been accepted, there was hope that there might be room for another socially relevant commercial among the ads for beer, fast food and soft drinks. However, last Friday, CBS gave the answer of 'no' to the site citing the following.

"CBS Standards and Practices has reviewed your proposed Super Bowl ad and concluded that the creative is not within the Network's Broadcast Standards for Super Bowl Sunday. Moreover, our Sales Department has had difficulty verifying your organization's credit status.

Should you wish to explore future buys on the CBS Television Network, the credit issue will have to be clarified. At that point, our Standards and Practices Department would be open to working with you on acceptable creative and appropriate daypart scheduling."

The letter, on CBS is signed by Kristen Bartlett, Editor/CBS Program Practices.

GLAAD's response

Even GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) got pulled into the controversy when it released this statement last Friday. "CBS has a problem when they do something like this at the same time as they allow an anti-gay group like Focus on the Family to place ads during the Super Bowl," said GLAAD President Jarrett Barrios. "This network should come clean to the public about what's going on because this seems to be a homophobic double standard." (NOTE: EDGE tried to get hold of GLAAD Director of Public Relations Richard Ferraro but emails and voicemails to both Ferraro's office and cell phone yesterday were not returned before going to press.)

On Sunday, January 31, gay blogger Lyndon Evans on his Focus On The Rainbow wrote that his news reporter radar went up when he first read of the commercial and he suspected it was a hoax perpetuated by ManCrunch. In a colorfully named blog entry The Man Crunch CBS Hoax or How A Former Stripper Bamboozled The World's Media To Promote A Website Evans claims his suspicions were confirmed by a comment he found on responses to a January 29 blog entry on Joe My God.

The comment written by porn blogger Jasun D contents that ""Mancrunch isn't a LGBT-owned business and it isn't a "gay dating site" at all.. it's just the "gay niche" site made by a clueless straight company for publicity.... This company is just using the gay community's political strength for some cash. They made a "gay" commercial they knew would be rejected so the gay community would get angry and generate a lot of free press for them."

To find out more about where things stand just five days before the Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints meet for the Super Bowl, EDGE's Jim Halterman talked with Dominic Friesen, co-creator and spokesperson for just before he appeared on last night's Larry King Live.

Read the interview with Dominic Friesen on the following page. Watch the ManCrunch commercial below.

CBS non-responsive?

EDGE: Since the controversy blew up, have the numbers for the site and new memberships jumped through the roof?

DF: Yeah, obviously there's been interest in the brand and the site and all that good stuff but I'd say in the past week since the story broke... right now because during this launch period we're not charging for membership. Anyone can go to the site and become a member for free. We've had 50,000 new members sign up in the last week.

EDGE: That's a big number!

DF: Absolutely but I do have to use caution in saying that because if it takes anti-gay discrimination to get us 50,000 members then we don't want them. Yes, we're very grateful for the support but we're looking at the bigger picture.

EDGE: When you got the 'no' from CBS, did they provide an actual reason?

DF: It's very general. They said it doesn't meet their broadcast standards and it does point out but they're trying to create a backup for themselves. They're calling into question the financial liability of our company and we have documented proof. Number one, when we submitted the ad, we told CBS we said we would provide them [payment] one of two ways. We could go the credit route or we would pay them 2.6 million dollars in cash and we provided financial liability from our banker that we could do so, so there's really no way around it. We really protected ourselves. I know they called into question about being able to provide credit history but that was completely backed up. We fool-proofed it and our banker called us today and said CBS had called them for a credit check and they gave it. In fact all of our credit references did.

EDGE: Looking over the rejection letter, it says the creative is not within the network broadcast standards. What exactly are those broadcast standards?

DF: CBS has been very emphatic publicly that although we did not meet their "broadcast standards" that they would provide the criteria and we could get the ad up to par to air this weekend. We have been persistent... we really want the ad on the air. We have been trying to get that criteria so we can repurpose the ad in the next five days and we cannot get it from them.

EDGE: So they're being non-responsive at this point?

DF: They're being non-responsive. They are not responding to us.

EDGE: Are you familiar with Lyndon Evans' blog? He wrote a blog posted on January 31st how this was all done as a big marketing hoax and questioned the CBS executives you're dealing with, but you just sent me the rejection letter from a CBS executive.

DF: I can tell you this. We're going on Larry King tonight. That's how serious the issue is. Larry King talked to CBS. Actually, some reporters have spoken to CBS executives.

EDGE: Lyndon Evans brought up another site called Established Men and suggests you're affiliated with that site. Does that sound familiar to you?

DF: This is the first I've heard of it. Is that on a blog or something?

EDGE: Yeah, it sounds like Evans did some research on the web and talked about how the sites were similar and the media contacts were the same. So, all that aside, where do things stand at this point with the ad and CBS?

DF: As it stands, our last outreach has been on-going and we got the rejection letter on Friday. We immediately requested recommendations and we wanted to repurpose the ad and we've provided all the financials so they'd know that it was an ad we could pay for and they're still not being responsive.

EDGE: Is there somebody with ManCrunch I can talk with or are we just going through you at this point?

DF: As of right now, I'm doing most of the interviews for the site. We're trying to just keep all of our investors out of the story.

EDGE: At this point, everything I've seen, I haven't seen names of who started the site.

DF: That was never given out, but I'm actually one of the co-founders of the site.

EDGE: Oh, I didn't know that.

DF: Mancrunch is a gay dating site and I'm very relationship focused; that's really rare with dating sites and I think it's a fresh, new approach that hopefully people will enjoy to meet new people.

Jim Halterman lives in Los Angeles and also covers the TV/Film/Theater scene for, AfterElton, Vulture, CBS Watch magazine and, of course, He is also a regular Tweeter and has a group site on Facebook.

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