Some advertisers withdrawing from Glenn Beck program over “Obama is racist” remark

In the past I have not particularly liked Beck, but the reality is that he is the best thing for conservatism on television and he has to be backed. Even better than his notorious “Obama is a racist” comment was his brilliant follow-up in which he argued that Obama doesn’t want reparations, because it wouldn’t go far enough. He says that Obama prefers nationalized medicine and a universal guaranteed college education to reparations, because blacks, being behind in health, education, and all other socioeconomic indicators, would benefit in a hugely disproportionate way from such programs, leading to the equalization of the races, whereas reparations would only be a one-time deal and would change nothing essential.

Beck’s insight is in line with my analysis of Obama’s March 2008 race speech, the anti-white, race-socialist meaning of which most conservatives failed to grasp. To hear such an analysis on national television is stunning. (Here is an off-target attack on Beck over the remarks.)

I don’t know how such things are organized, but people need to contact FOX, and the advertisers who have pulled out, and the advertisers who have stayed, and tell them that Beck represents a valid and vitally important point of view and that we support him.

Aug 14, 2009, 12:15 a.m. EST
Advertisers deserting Fox News’ Glenn Beck
Cable host calls Obama ‘racist’ and sponsors move to distance themselves
By William Spain, MarketWatch

NEW YORK (MarketWatch)—In what is shaping up to be one of the more effective boycott campaigns in years, advertisers are abandoning the “Glenn Beck” show on Fox News following the host’s incendiary comments that President Barack Obama is a “racist” and has a “deep-seated hatred for white people.”

Among the advertisers to pull spots from the popular cable talk show are Geico, owned by Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway , Procter & Gamble , Sargento Cheese and Progressive Insurance , according to the companies and Color of Change, one group that is organizing a campaign against the program.

Fox News Network
Glenn Beck.

Beck, who made the remarks during another Fox News program late last month, is among the network’s biggest draws, pulling in an average of about 2 million viewers. (Fox News is a unit of News Corp. , which also owns MarketWatch, the publisher of this report.)

Geico didn’t respond to request for comment but sent Color Of Change an email saying it had “instructed its ad-buying service to redistribute its inventory of rotational spots on [Fox] to their other network programs, exclusive of the Glenn Beck program.”

Privately-held Sargento told its media buyer not to put any of its ads in Beck’s show, said a spokeswoman.

“We market our products to people regardless of their political affiliations,” she said. “Yet we do not want to be associated with hateful speech used by either liberal or conservative television hosts.”

Because of the way ad time is often bought on cable—in bulk and with an eye towards day parts and demographics—some of the targeted companies’ ads may well have ended up on the program by mistake and in violation of their own standards. If so, it was an error that some advertisers vowed not to repeat.

“We place advertising on a variety of programming with the goal of reaching a broad range of insurance consumers who might be interested in our products,” said a spokeswoman for Progressive. “We also seek to avoid advertising on programming that our customers or potential customers may find extremely offensive.”

The Glenn Beck Show wasn’t “targeted,” she added and “any advertising that may have appeared on the show was a result of an error.”

P&G didn’t respond to a request for comment but one news report quoted a spokesperson as saying that “at times our ads are run by mistake on shows that they were not meant to” and that the company would “try to be more careful in the future.”

Color of Change is using a 600,000-member electronic mail list to urge people to sign a petition that is then forwarded to Beck’s sponsors. The group was founded in the wake of the Hurricane Katrina disaster to promote “racial progress,” said James Rucker, executive director, adding that this was the first time the group had been involved in any action of this kind.

“We have seen rhetoric that is destructive and divisive before, but taking a platform that is supposed to be for news and analysis and using it to stoke racial animosity just crossed the line,” Rucker said.

The group also contacts the advertisers directly but has yet to call on its members to boycott their products or bombard them with phone calls, Rucker said, instead giving companies the opportunity “to be responsible corporate citizens.”

Rucker added that he “absolutely expects” other advertisers to follow suit and drop out because the wave of defections “raises the stakes for them to stick around.”

For its part, Fox News said through a spokeswoman that while some advertisers have “removed their spots from Beck,” they have just shifted to “other programs on the network so there has been no revenue lost.”

She also cited an earlier statement by Bill Shine, the channel’s senior vice president of programming, that “Glenn Beck expressed a personal opinion which represented his own views, not those of the Fox News Channel. And as with all commentators in the cable news arena, he is given the freedom to express his opinions.”

Adding fuel to the fire is Donny Deutsch, a CNBC TV personality and head of the ad agency Deutsch Inc., which is part of the Interpublic Group . He, too, called for a boycott of Beck’s show, saying on the air that “this has to stop” and the “only way this stops” is if sponsors pull their support.

He went to read a list of companies that advertise on Beck’s show, including Pfizer and Kraft Foods.

The pharmaceutical giant isn’t backing down yet, telling MarketWatch that it hasn’t made any changes in its media buying.

“Our main focus is to make all consumers aware of important information about health and wellness and the best way to do this is through a broad range of advertising environments,” said a Pfizer spokeswoman.

Kraft was a bit more noncommittal.

“Because of the diversity of our consumers, Kraft Foods will continue to advertise on a wide range of networks and programs,” said a spokeswoman. “We make every attempt to place our commercials on programs with universal appeal. It is our policy not to advertise on programs with extreme or inflammatory content or images on any network.”

Ad boycotts driven by viewer anger or corporate caution over broadcast content have been a staple of the American television business for decades. Few have been successful in any long-term way.

Several companies pulled ads from ABC’s “Desperate Housewives” at one point, but they were quickly replaced and the show went to become one of network TV’s biggest moneymakers. Ditto an all-out attempt in the 1990s by the American Family Association to boycott “NYPD Blue” even before it went on the air. After a rough start, the show went on to become one of the most popular in prime-time and attracted advertisers by the score.

By contrast, when Bill Maher was hosting “Politically Incorrect,” his comments about the relative courage of the terrorists who attacked the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, set off a firestorm. Several big companies including Fedex and Sears Holding yanked their ads and some affiliates refused to run the show. It eventually dwindled away and was canceled early the next year, although Maher himself now has a popular program on ad-free HBO.

For advertisers, “the halo of the show means you are connected with supporting that point of view,” said John Greening a Northwestern University professor of marketing who spent 28 years in the ad agency business. “It is not about awareness but about association.”

“Beck’s demagoguery crossed the line of the socially-expected taste level and I can’t think of a company on the planet who wants to be a part of that conversation,” Greening said. “It is a no-brainer to pull your ads.”

Whether the show can survive with advertisers deserting it depends on whether they can replaced and how much money Fox News is prepared to lose before pulling the plug.

It also, Greening said, “depends on Beck’s level of contrition or how he explains it. But unless he does something to rehabilitate himself, he has probably crossed the line into obscurity.”

Posted by Lawrence Auster at August 14, 2009 08:56 AM | Send

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