"Gossip Girl" will get people talking. At least, that seems likely as the CW network brings to a boil its new campaign for the sexy prep-school soap.
The show's second season begins Sept. 1, following an August promotion to put viewers, um, in the mood. And here's a twist: The racy ads co-opt language from the very criticism of the show for being too, well, racy.
Alert surfers got a preview last week, when images of coupled-up "Gossip Girl" characters found their way onto several Web sites.
Item: Here's Serena van der Woodsen (series blonde Blake Lively) with eyes shut dreamily, mouth open, while a friend, his face buried in her tresses, nuzzles her neck.
Strongly suggesting the pair are just getting started, the headline, which quotes The Boston Herald, declares: "Every Parent's Nightmare."
Other such lovey-dovey moments (on a couch, in the sack or apparently skinny-dipping) are accompanied by headlines like "A Nasty Piece of Work" and "Mind-Blowingly Inappropriate."
That latter phrase was borrowed from the Parents Television Council, which has blasted the series' salacious content since its premiere.
"I think it reeks of desperation, if they have to position themselves as so edgy and so controversial that they've been called out by us," said Melissa Henson, PTC director of communications.
But CW marketing boss Rick Haskins said the advertising just aims to get noticed.
"What we're trying to do is communicate with the audience in a way that they like and can appreciate," he said. "This sort of campaign resonates with someone who likes 'Gossip Girl"' — specifically, women ages 18 to 34.
The objective was finding "well-written headlines that are provocative and would catch our viewers' attention," said Haskins, "and, in a tongue-in-cheek way, capture what the show is about."
The series is based on the popular "Gossip Girl" young-adult novels, and is presented to the audience through the eyes of its mysterious title character, whose tattling posts are savored by the show's PDA-packing teens as they share the luxe life on Manhattan's Upper East Side.
The series debuted last fall. Then, in January, its run was interrupted by the Hollywood writers strike. No new episodes were aired until April 21, for which the first welcome-back campaign was launched.
That promotion included racy images of the show's characters with the headline: "OMFG." THAT got people talking.
While the CW's Haskins insisted at the time that the initials could stand for any number of things, like "Oh My Freaking Goodness" (and as the Gawker Web site sarcastically scoffed, "On Meth, Feeling Good," among others), many of its intended viewers may have seized on a much ruder interpretation — wording that would be taboo on broadcast TV and most advertising.
"Rather than reinforcing positive values that parents are trying to instill in their children, this program very often is undermining these positive values," said PTC's Henson in April during a CNN-aired discussion spurred by that steamy campaign.
"Gossip Girl" can only hope that its September return will be greeted with comparable notice.