Advertisers avoiding controversy

Marketplace Staff Nov 1, 2006

KAI RYSSDAL: Watch any television show and it’s easy to see advertisers are more anxious than ever to reach their target consumers. But what about the flip side of that coin? Not wanting to reach a certain audience. A memo leaked from ABC News suggests nearly 100 top advertisers don’t want to be associated with the left-leaning Air America radio network. Marketplace’s Alisa Roth has more from New York.

ALISA ROTH: Companies that bought ads on ABC radio news are worried those spots could end up being played during Air America programming. Hewlett Packard, Home Depot and Proctor & Gamble are among the advertisers who don’t want their ads on Air America. Those companies, and many others on the list, are also among the top spenders in radio advertising.

Carl Marcucci is an editor with trade publication Radio and Television Business Report. He says any show seen as controversial may be blacklisted — from Air America to Rush Limbaugh and, most famously, Howard Stern.

CARL MARCUCCI: They just have these lists that sort of float around: Don’t buy this program, don’t buy this host.

He says companies worry a show or station could alienate some listeners and potential consumers. So many will just avoid buying ads on those shows altogether.

NYU marketing professor Sam Craig says carefully choosing where to run ads is simply good business.

SAM CRAIG: The real question they have to ask themselves is why should we be paying to reach individuals that are not likely to purchase our product. If there’s sort of a greater overlay saying, “Gee, this is controversial and we don’t want to be associated with a controversy,” that’s also a legitimate business decision.

And sometimes that decision goes the other way. Several media companies, including this one, recently decided not to accept promos for the movie “Death of a President.” They decided the mock documentary about the fictional assassination of President Bush was simply too controversial.

In New York, I’m Alisa Roth for Marketplace.

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