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Did Bristol Palin Really Generate "1 Billion" Media Hits for Candie's Teen Sex Effort?

Candie's defended its payment of $262,500 to Bristol Palin with a statement claiming that her anti-teen pregnancy efforts had generated an "unprecedented" 1 billion media impressions. The fashion label's charity arm declined to describe in detail how it calculated that astonishing number, however, which stands in contrast to the few hundred thousand people who have actually viewed Palin's abstinence commercial on YouTube.

The Candie's Foundation suffered a wave of negative publicity earlier this week when the publication of its financial statements revealed that it paid more than a quarter million dollars to the daughter of Fox News pundit Sarah Palin but gave only $35,000 to organizations that actually prevent teen pregnancy, the foundation's stated mission.

Candie's, a unit of Iconix Brand Group (ICON), said in a statement that the foundation's purpose was not to actually prevent unwanted pregnancies, but to generate publicity about unwanted pregnancies:

The Candie's Foundation is not a grant-making organization. Like many other foundations, it develops and implements its own programs. The goal of the Foundation is to get people talking about teen pregnancy; this is done by producing and funding celebrity-driven public service television, print, radio and online announcements and campaigns.
Candie's claim that it reached "1 billion" pairs of eyes (either separately or in repetition) would make the Palin effort one of the most successful campaigns ever aired, given the resources applied to it. On YouTube, Palin's ad has been watched by only 777,512 people. Many of those views were not from vulnerable teens but from celebrity gawkers, agog at one of the least-convincing ad performances of the year (the spot featured Palin and Jersey Shore's The Situation agreeing that kids should "pause before you play" -- either by refraining from sex or using a condom).

The Foundation's financials for 2009 say the Foundation spent $165,000 on media in the same year it paid Palin. That's a tiny sum in advertising terms, barely enough to advertise in a single state let alone nationwide.

The campaign took place in 2010; it is not clear whether a similar or greater media budget was applied to it. Candie's, however, describes the effort on its web site as a "PSA" or "public service announcement." Generally, PSAs rely on media outlets running them free of charge. They do not get primetime spots in front of large audiences.

When BNET asked Candie's to break down exactly how the 1 billion number was generated, a spokesperson declined to respond beyond this statement:

It is calculated by media hits. i.e. circulation of print publication, # of impressions for websites, audience reach of TV show.
So, sure, Palin may have generated 1 billion views. But they weren't from YouTube and they weren't from $165,000.

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