When and If to Pull Your Ads
Don Imus—and his producer, Bernard McGuirk—have a long history of using the airwaves for sexism, racism, gay bashing and borderline slander of people and organizations that crossed them or whom they simply found to be irritating.
Management would wince, but always give Imus a pass, because of the gorgeous lucre he brought in annually—a reported $22 million to CBS Radio and $8 million for MSNBC.
When he stepped over the line with his gratuitous slur of the Rutgers women’s championship basketball team, Imus was suspended for two weeks by MSNBC and CBS radio, which carried him on more than 60 stations. The CEOs figured it would be a slap on the wrist and then back to business as usual.
But Rev. Al Sharpton and Rev. Jesse Jackson immediately entered the fray and scared the wits out of Imus advertisers.
Seven out of 10 major advertisers on MSNBC canceled their schedules—General Motors, American Express, Sprint-Nextel, GlaxoSmithKline, Genworth Financial, PetMed Express and the largest advertiser in the country, Procter & Gamble. Facing huge financial losses, NBC gave the Imus simulcast the boot on Wednesday, a bare seven days after his transgression. Seeing the handwriting on the wall—and angry picketers outside his headquarters in New York—Les Moonves of CBS fired Imus the next day.
Under what conditions should you consider pulling your ad schedule in order to register your protest at rogue journalists and rogue media?
Or should you do it at all?
“Dateline” vs. General Motors
In Nov. 1992, a very sanctimonious Stone Phillips hosted a 14-minute segment on NBC’s “Dateline” on the safety of certain General Motors trucks. The piece ended with a fiery, 57-second film clip of a test showing conclusively that when hit broadside, the side-mounted gas tanks on the GM truck tended to catch fire and explode.
The following February, an Atlanta jury awarded $105.2 million to the family of a 17-year-old girl who was killed in such a collision. Two weeks later, William A. Henry III wrote in TIME:
- New York