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What's Behind CBS's 'Smear' Campaign?

Wednesday, 23 Dec 2009 | 10:51 AM ET

Looking for a last minute gift for the woman you love? Skip the little blue box. CBS suggests you get her “the gift of a pap smear.”

Just a word of advice. Get something else, too, if you want to live to see 2010.

If you haven’t seen the “CBS Cares” public service announcement, here it is.

Actor Chris Beetem tells viewers, “Give her the gift that even Santa can’t deliver.” Beetem is apparently REALLY DESPERATE to get in good with CBS, or he drew the “relatively unknown actor” short straw, or, well, maybe he knows someone who got cervical cancer, which could have been prevented by a pap smear. An earlier version of the spot for Hanukkah “starred” Josh Pais. “Just a schmear could save her life. Give the gift that will light up her menorah.” What do you mean by that?

The CBS exec behind the PSAs, Matthew Margo, told the New York Daily News he knew they'd get attention. The network, considered generally more conservative than rivals, has been going "edgy" in public service announcements for some time. Last year, PSAs used actresses to suggest wives schedule prostrate exams for husbands. "If your main objective is to offend no one, than you're on a fast track to being irrelevant," Margo told the paper.

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So…what do you do next year?

The imagination runs wild.

“This holiday, go where Santa has never gone before, get your loved one a colonoscopy.”

“If you love him, don’t love his halitosis. Get help.”

"How’s this for a New Year’s resolution? Do everyone a favor and get those corns removed."

Enough already.

The pap smear spots have elicited predictable reactions. “Nothing says ‘ick’ like the holiday gift of a pap smear” blares the headline of one blogabout the campaign.

By the way, CBS is not suggesting women perform the pap smears on their own, even though I found a “how to” video on YouTube (no link here, you’ll have to find that one on your own).

Look, I’m a huge supporter of pap smears. Just not for Christmas. If I open a present Friday morning to discover a card inside telling me that on a particular date I get to put my feet in stirrups and stare at the ceiling, this will go down as one of the most memorable Christmases ever…not in a good way. As Dr. Craig once said to Ehrlich in "St. Elsewhere”—“What kind of pap are you trying to smear?”

Questions? Comments? Funny Stories? Email funnybusiness@cnbc.com

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  • Based in Los Angeles, Jane Wells is a CNBC business news reporter and also writes the Funny Business blog for CNBC.com.

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