TV Writers Script Safe Sex 'Product Placement' The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization that has worked to get messages about teen pregnancy and safe sex onto hundreds of TV shows.
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TV Writers Script Safe Sex 'Product Placement'

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TV Writers Script Safe Sex 'Product Placement'

TV Writers Script Safe Sex 'Product Placement'

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Turn on the TV and it's hard to miss the product placements in shows like "The Vampire Diaries" or "Days of Our Lives" or "Project Runway."


TIM GUNN: Good morning, designers, and welcome to the Lexus challenge.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (as character) Hoo-hoo. Cheerios, revel at this hour.


NINA DOBREV: (as Elena Gilbert) I binged it.

SIEGEL: But there is another kind of product placement that's more subtle. So subtle, says NPR's Neda Ulaby, that you might not even realize it's product placement.


NEDA ULABY, BYLINE: Earlier this year, the Fox show "Raising Hope" aired an episode where a teenaged girl is caught in bed with her boyfriend.


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (as character) You two, out of bed. I'm going to show you where this can lead to. I'm your ghost of teen pregnancy future.

ULABY: The show's main character had a baby when she was a teen. She and her husband show the girl pictures from their high school days.


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (as character) Oh, here's our prom photo.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (as character) How many people get to look that fancy when welcoming their son into the world?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (as character) Look at those fresh-faced kids.

ULABY: The jokes and the regret are part of a carefully calibrated product placement strategy, but the show is not selling sandwiches or cereal. This product is a cause placed by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. Its entertainment media program is run by Marisa Nightingale.

MARISA NIGHTINGALE: We met with one of the writers last summer, and they came up with an episode that incorporates some of what we talked about but in the very irreverent, unique, funny tone. And I love what they've done because it's not anything that any nonprofit would've come up with.

ULABY: Nightingale says integrating her cause into TV shows gives her issue more depth and more heart than any public service announcement ever could.

NIGHTINGALE: What they do is get at the feelings and emotions and the connections between people. Here's an example from a million years ago.

ULABY: The campaign worked with The WB show "Dawson's Creek" from the pilot on.


MICHELLE WILLIAMS: (as Jen Lindley) Dawson, we need to talk. Sex changes everything, and I just don't want to lose our friendship.

ULABY: Back during those "Dawson's Creek" glory days, Susanne Daniels ran The WB. At first, she was skeptical about letting a not-for-profit work with her show runners and writers.

SUSANNE DANIELS: There's always a hesitation of is this going to somehow tarnish the organic nature of the development, you know, but that didn't happen at all. I think in the case of the campaign it only enhanced the programming.

ULABY: Now, Daniels sits on the campaign's board. TV executive Gina Girolamo is also involved with the organization. She's is in charge of over a dozen shows aimed towards teenagers, including "Gossip Girl" and "Pretty Little Liars."

GINA GIROLAMO: They're on the ground in a way that none of us are.

ULABY: Girolamo's involvement with The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy dates to her days focus-grouping kids about TV shows back in the 1990s.

GIROLAMO: These teenagers specifically said, well, no one on TV uses condoms, and I remember thinking, wow, we really need to do a better job of representing life.

ULABY: This nonprofit gained traction in Hollywood, she says, partly because it never ever tries to dictate storylines or things characters might say. The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy has worked with hundreds and hundreds of shows over the past 15 years. Take "Glee."


ULABY: The campaign helped with a story arc about a pregnant cheerleader, says media director Marisa Nightingale.

NIGHTINGALE: At one point, we sent a bunch of stuff about what it's like for a pregnant teenaged girl to walk down a school hallway.

ULABY: When Nightingale worked with another show, "Parenthood," she helped develop a storyline about a teenaged girl's decision to have sex. She wanted to show realistic conversations between parents and kids, complete with false starts and missteps. In one episode, a mother and daughter both lie to each other. The daughter lies about having sex.


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (as character) So the answers is no, you're not.

(as character) Right. I mean, what...

(as character) And you're not...

(as character) ...were you my age or something when you first had sex?

ULABY: The mother says no. She was 22. Eventually, the daughter tells the truth. She's having sex with her boyfriend. Her dad freaks out.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (as character) and...

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (as character) Dad, I'm...

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (as character) ...I don't know what to say to her, OK? What am I supposed to do? Give her a five...

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (as character) You said it...

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (as character) ...and congratulate her for having sex?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (as character) That's not what I'm saying.

ULABY: Everything is super tense. The daughter tells her mom she wishes she'd never said anything. Then the mother admits she was lying too.


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (as character) I wasn't 22. I was 15. It was awful. It was with this boy named Roy. Anyway, I thought I was in love with him, and he went to school the next day and told everybody.

ULABY: The storyline continued over many subsequent episodes, says Marisa Nightingale.

NIGHTINGALE: They repaired their relationship, and it was very real and messy.

ULABY: Not many nonprofits are as organized as The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. Most are lucky to get just a little exposure on reality shows from "The Real Housewives" to "Extreme Couponing."


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Joanie and Jamie find another item on feeding America's list of needs: rice.

ULABY: Marisa Nightingale says one of the best things about integrating messages into TV shows is there's a TV show for everyone.

NIGHTINGALE: They also have this cool factor that - trust me - no nonprofit, hard as we try, will ever have.

ULABY: Few groups really work to get their causes into TV storylines. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention does Hollywood outreach. So does the Kaiser Family Foundation. Still, you can imagine it's a lot harder for nonprofits working on Lyme disease to get into TV plotlines than one that focuses on teenagers and sex. Neda Ulaby, NPR News.

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