Skip to comments.Ads Rushing Out Of Limbaugh Show?
Posted on 01/29/2003 9:40:55 PM PST by SierraWasp
Ads rushing out of Limbaugh show? Progressives take aim at radio program's sponsors
By William Spain, CBS.MarketWatch.com Last Update: 12:04 AM ET Jan. 30, 2003
CHICAGO (CBS.MW) - A Rush to the exits?
Though still in its infancy, a letter-writing campaign aimed at advertisers on "The Rush Limbaugh Show," has already claimed a few choice scalps -- and hopes to soon have other marketers saying "ditto."
Kicked off last week on the website of a group called Take Back The Media, the effort is generating a growing buzz among online progressives (or, if you prefer, "liberals") -- along with hundreds of angry e-mails to companies that sponsor what it calls Limbaugh's "hateful chortling and guffawing."
Micheal Stinson, a Vietnam-era veteran, is co-founder of Take Back The Media. Obviously never a Rush fan, Stinson and his cohorts were content to largely ignore the king of reactionary talk radio -- until he weighed in on the recent anti-war protests, calling participants "anti-American," "anti-capitalist" and "communists," among other terms.
"He just went too far," said Stinson. "Don't call me anti-American. I served this country."
When he decided to go after Limbaugh, Stinson said "we were told we would have to nip at his heels, to start by contacting local advertisers." He ignored that advice, however, and posted a list, complete with contact information, of top sponsors.
"Within 18 hours, RadioShack (RSH: news, chart, profile) had folded. Within 36 hours, Amtrak was gone and Bose told us they were no longer advertising on the show," Stinson said.
Oddly, Stinson's group is not only telling the rest of the world which companies advertise on Limbaugh's show but, apparently, even the companies themselves.
In RadioShack's case, the company maintains that it does not buy ads on Limbaugh's show and any that did air were "the result of an "error made by the radio network or local affiliate."
RadioShack, the company continued, "strictly adheres to a policy of not intentionally buying advertising space on programs that might be political or socially controversial or that promote any one individual's agenda or point of view."
Amtrak says the ads aired as part of a complicated barter deal involving, strange but true, the San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau. It does not sponsor political shows and "'in the future...will communicate [that] practice to" other partners.
Although Stinson said he has reports of its ads appearing during the show, a spokeswoman for Bose told CBS.MarketWatch that its does not advertise on the program, "and has no intentions of doing so."
Other advertisers targeted by Take Back the Media include Darden Restaurants (DRI: news, chart, profile) Red Lobster chain, Pfizer (PFE: news, chart, profile) AutoZone (AZO: news, chart, profile) and online retailer Overstock.com (OSTK: news, chart, profile) -- none of which would comment.
Limbaugh is syndicated by Premiere Radio Networks, a subsidiary of radio behemoth Clear Channel Communications (CCU: news, chart, profile). While not addressing whether the show had lost any advertisers as a result of the boycott, Premiere issued the following written statement:
"There have been many times in the 15 year history of 'The Rush Limbaugh Program' when national and world events have generated increased listening as well as increased communication with individuals who have opposing points of view," said company president Kraig Kitchin. "The kind of compelling radio that generates opposition also causes Rush Limbaugh's weekly 20 million listeners to tune in that much more and listen longer."
That audience number is likely exaggerated (other estimates put it closer to 15 million) but there is no question that Limbaugh is big, big, big and one of medium's biggest single stars.
So, can a few scrappy liberals really hurt him?
Depends. A lot of radio time is bought pretty much on a commodity basis, with advertisers looking for dayparts and regions rather than specific programming. Many may not even know where their ads appeared until after the fact. And, unless they have given their buyers up-front marching orders to avoid him (already not uncommon), Limbaugh's powerful ratings guarantee a piece of that action. Of course, there are plenty of other options that can deliver similar numbers.
Whether or not the boycott works to any meaningful degree is going to depend on how many more advertisers decide it is easier to switch than fight. According to radio buyers, some companies cave almost instantly in the face of even a little negative feedback while others need to experience a truly sustained and widespread level of complaints before they listen.
Still, they don't have to get them all to make a difference: If enough advertisers put out the word that the show is a forbidden zone -- and they are not rapidly replaced -- the program will lose much of its economic value to local stations and station groups regardless of how well its audience numbers are doing. Of course, the already-loaded Limbaugh is never going to have trouble putting food on the table, but he and his fans could end up in less desirable timeslots or on fewer outlets.
Historically, the boycott approach has a mixed record. One of the most effective boycotts of recent times was against Viacom (VIA: news, chart, profile) unit VH-1's "Music Behind Bars," a program that showcased the jailhouse jams of murderers, rapists and assorted other scum. An outcry from victim's rights groups, law enforcement officials and politicians had advertisers staying away in droves and the cable network quickly pulled the plug on the series. (Viacom is a significant shareholder in MarketWatch.com, the publisher of this report.)
The "Christian" right's attack on "NYPD Blue" in the early 1990s, on the other hand, was a complete failure. It initially scared off some marketers but the program's ratings and demographics were so good that it attracted business from sectors that don't sell to religious nuts anyway -- including movies, beer, cosmetics, designer clothing, etc. And the effort completely fell apart when the first big package-goods company (Unilever (UN: news, chart, profile), if memory serves) jumped in. "Blue" eventually went to become one of the most enduring and profitable shows in Disney (DIS: news, chart, profile) unit ABC's prime-time line-up.
What makes this attempt particularly interesting is that progressives typically eschew ad boycotts both for free speech reasons and because it is a favorite technique of their ideological opponents.
Stinson, however, is unapologetic about tearing a page out of the other team's playbook: "We are going to employ the tactics of those people -- and it's already working. We are hitting some nerves."
William Spain is a reporter for CBS.MarketWatch.com in Chicago.
Pure unadulterated horsesh#t. This must be boycott attempt number 437 all by "progressives." They all failed, as will this one.
So did Benedict Arnold, in fact, on at least one occasion, he was responsible for pretty much saving the fledgling republic... But you can do bad things after your service is over...
Distinguished service in Vietnam.
35 years stabbing his country in the back since.