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Target Says It Will Air Magic Johnson Commercial After All

November 13, 1991

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) _ Target Stores says it will continue running a lighthearted TV ad featuring Magic Johnson after the former Los Angeles Lakers star and his agent supported continuing the campaign.

The discount chain had said earlier this week that it was considering pulling the commercial because it might appear insensitive in light of Johnson’s disclosure that he had been infected by a virus that causes AIDS.

A Target spokeswoman said the news that it was considering shelving the commercial prompted hundreds of calls from customers.

″The phone calls were mainly from people irate that we were dumping Magic, which was totally false,″ Target spokeswoman Gail Dorn said.

″People were showing concern for Magic and once we explained our situation, people understood. The calls solidified that our customers are behind Johnson, as we are,″ she said.

The commercial shows men stacking up TV sets in a gym, with each television adding a piece of Johnson. A TV announcer outside the pyramid verbally jousts with Johnson, then tosses a basketball to him. Johnson jumps out of the televisions, dribbles and shoots a basket. The TV announcer then gets trapped in the TV stack and cannot get out, Dorn said.

Johnson announced last week that he was retiring from basketball after learning he had become infected with the virus that causes AIDS.

Target said Monday that it might not run the commercial because its playful tone might be misconstrued. But Target planned to continue using Johnson in other aspects of the ad campaign, called ″Electronics, Like Magic.″

″We spoke with Magic’s agent today and he reviewed the commercial and said go ahead and run it,″ Dorn said Tuesday.

″I understand and appreciate Target’s concern for me, but would like the ad campaign to run its normal course,″ Johnson said in a statement issued by Target on Tuesday.

″It shouldn’t surprise us that (Johnson) wants to continue running the ads. He’s a very strong person,″ Dorn said. The commercial will begin airing in 32 states in early December.

Johnson also will continue to appear on Target billboards, at in-store signings and in circular ads into December as scheduled.

Target is a division of the Minneapolis-based Dayton Hudson Corp. It operates 463 stores in 32 states.