Last week gay dating site ManCrunch.com cried foul when CBS rejected their ad submission for this year’s Super Bowl, claiming that the creative did not meet “broadcasting standards” and that the sales department had difficulties in verifying the previously unknown site’s “credit status.”
This sparked speculation that the whole commercial, which the site said cost just under $100,000 to make, was a PR stunt, and that ManCrunch never had the $2.5 million to pay for the spot.
However the site is actually owned by Avid Life Media, which reportedly makes around $30 million a year in revenue, through owning and operating a string of other niche-market online dating sites including Ashleymadison.com (for those looking to have affairs), Cougarlife.com (for women looking for younger men), Establishedmen.com (for “beautiful” ladies seeking wealthy guys), Swappernet.com (for swingers) and HotorNot.com (to rate and meet others).
“I am genuinely confused by the 'is it real or not' and 'hoax' tag... this is a true gay dating service, a real commercial, and [we had] genuine intent to air it on the 2010 Super Bowl," Avid Life Media President Noel Biderman told Pop Tarts exclusively. "Our company truly believes that identifying itself as legitimate alternative to the current male same sex services out there, would have been accelerated by placing what we feel is a very funny ad, on the Super Bowl.”
“Had the commercial aired on the Super Bowl we did anticipate certain conservative groups and journalists to want to discuss the 'appropriateness' of the ad and nature of the ManCrunch service, and that would have put ManCrunch in the center of the debate it was truly hoping to create (and not necessarily have the last word on)," he added. "We really thought the controversy would happen after the ad aired during Super Bowl, we are angry about the rejection and believe CBS acted in a discriminatory way.”
In addition to being the Avid Life president, Biderman is the Founder & CEO of infidelity-promoting dating agency Ashley Madison, which isn’t exactly a beacon for gay rights.
“Our goal is just to help people pursue the lifestyle that they want to pursue whether it is having an extramarital affair, being a swinger or being in a gay relationship,” Biderman said. “We are non-judgmental, adults should be left to be adults and what happens in the bedroom should be left there. We never tried to reset anybody’s moral compass; all we want to do is provide a worthwhile service.”
Gay rights activists were also quick to condemn CBS for their failure to approve the commercial, with GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) releasing a 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."
Calls directly to GLAAD and numerous other gay and lesbian rights groups were not returned on Wednesday.
And while the officials behind ManCrunch.com denied the Super Bowl ad controversy was a carefully calculated move to propagate publicity in knowing they would be rejected, they aren’t denying that the proceeding media storm has hadsome advantages.
“Obviously the commercial was controversial and we are aware of all the attention it is getting and it’s amazing,” a rep for the website said. “Everyone knows about ManCrunch now, but it is a double-edged sword. It’s going to be challenging to find another network willing to air the ad now that it had such a high-profile denial.”
According to one media analyst, that shouldn’t be a problem.
“The network [that decides to air it] will benefit from the added PR,” Sean Phillips, Executive Producer of Y! Movies, Y! Kids, predicted. “It probably won’t be a major network, but a smaller cable channel would really thrive on that.”
CBS declined to comment regarding the “PR stunt” controversy.
So if it wasn’t a manufactured media blitz, why was ManCrunch even willing to spend money on airing during the Super Bowl when it generally isn’t even the target audience?
“ManCrunch is looking for guys willing to have their first gay experience,” explained the website’s rep. “Perhaps they’re married or in relationships, so it’s on the down low.”