Record #850

Record Type:
Letter, memo
MPPDA (Board of Directors)
Reel 9
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Advertising Code
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Hays writes from Hollywood about problems over advertising and AMPP resolution to enforce Advertising code. The problems created by salacious, dishonest and offensively suggestive advertising. It is losing the industry broad support, and making an admissions tax more likely. Hays proposes immediate action on the problem, especially closer and more uniform supervision of ads.


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9 July 1932 letter, Hays to company heads, on the seriousness of the situation caused by advertising: "You will remember our recent discussions in New York about it. As I said then, with most of our product the advertising is fairly free from reasonable criticism. Some of it, however, is salacious, dishonest, offensively suggestive and in the very worst taste. The extent to which this general offensiveness in advertising has grown in recent months is evidenced by the fact that a number of newspapers, periodicals and other forms of advertising which have been carrying our advertising for years, have rejected copy submitted to them on the general ground that it was 'unfit to print' -- even as paid advertising." cites examples -- "Girls, would you live like Eve if you found the right Adam? ... Modern marriage can take lessons from this drama of primitive jungle-mating ... the bath of live in the crystal-clear jungle pool ..." (MGM Tarzan) "Take all men as you find them ... but take them ... It's preferable to be a working girl -- but preferable to be working men ... All men go too far -- but most girls are poor judges of distance ... Blondes may be preferred, but it's the bonfire that makes 'em run a temperature." (MGM -- Red-Headed Woman) -- lists complaints either from editors or in print. All these are culled, together with the advertisement quotes, from a memo by Breen, n.d., on the general situation: "... Of recent months ... the critical economic conditions which prevail throughout the industry appear to have had the effect of leading many of our advertising people away from our established precedents. There is ample evidence in hand to suggest that it is now the practice to approve, or condone, advertising matter which, when not definitely offensive, and improper, is, at least, suggestively in bad taste. ... From all over the nation we are receiving vigorous protests from responsible persons against what is variously stigmatized as 'salacious,' 'indecent,' 'offensive,' 'pornographic,' 'vile,' or merely 'objectionable,' advertising. These protests are coming, not from the usual run of self-appointed industry critics; the writers are not the usual type of 'reformer' and chronic fault-finder. On the contrary, we are daily in receipt of protests form a new kind of critic - from reputable business men and women, from legislators, from mothers and fathers of families, from ordinary folk whose letters suggest an unfamiliarity with formal letter writing. Clergymen and teachers everywhere are loud in their complaints against this improper advertising. So widespread and pertinent have these protests become that we cannot continue to ignore them. Some definite, vigorous and forceful action must be taken at once if we are to save our good name and our self-respect. "The Editor of the Oregonian, of Portland, Oregon, wrote: " ... Under the present vogue of titles and exploitation there is no choosing [for motion pictures]. Clean, wholesome pictures are put out with suggestive titles and advertised accordingly to draw sensation-seekers to the box-office while films reeking with filth and vulgarity are labelled with innocent-looking titles to catch the unwary ... If something is not done within the motion picture business to promote truth and decency in advertising canned entertainment, the people may find some way to regulate it from the outside, as they did in the matter of canned foods.' "... All of this suggests, without any additional elaboration, the profound seriousness of the advertising situation in which we now find ourselves. We cannot continue to ignore this situation without realizing just where it is leading. In the first place, all this sort of advertising is definitely wrong. We ought to be, and I think we are, above stooping to this kind of stuff to stimulate business. It is cheap and mean and offensive to decent people everywhere and ought not to be tolerated for an instant. Furthermore, it will surely get us into serious trouble if we do not put a stop to it at once. Certain it is that we are building up tremendous ill-will for this industry among the rank and file of our people. We are alienating our friends among the American press and rousing opposition among influential folk throughout the nation. We are placing in the hands of our pro-censorship friends a ready weapon which is certain to cost this industry millions of dollars in the not-distant future. We are shrouding our industry with an industrial character and stigma which investors among the public will surely shy away from. "... It is this matter of industry self-respect which ought to appeal most strongly to us. If we are to continue to sponsor this offensive advertising, thus acknowledging to the world our total lack of respect for ourselves and our industry, we cannot expect others to entertain a favorable disposition towards us. People who might otherwise be helpful will seek to find ways to embarrass us. Censorship groups all over the world are definitely prejudiced against our product by this kind of advertising. And at a time like this, when the industry is confronted with the absolute necessity of eliminating every unnecessary expense, the cost of censorship becomes important. We have many concrete examples where the playing up of the isolated risqu bits in a picture has put the State Censor Boards and the municipal censorship bodies in a position where they were obligated to delete the parts of the picture so advertised." Breen cites an instance of the editor of the Catholic World not delivering an address because of his doubts about the industry brought about by advertising.

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