Should We Advertise on Glenn Beck?

Last Updated Apr 5, 2011 2:56 PM EDT

Well, we're in the midst of a thorny advertising dilemma, to say the least.

A couple of weeks ago, we began advertising Blinds.com on the Glenn Beck radio program. It took all of about 6 days before the vitriolic verbal attacks against me and my company rolled in via Twitter. And they've been nasty -- I've been called everything from a Nazi and a homophobe to a slew of other names that if published here my editor would surely censor. (For the record, I'm Jewish and a supporter of the AIDS Foundation.)

One day last week, within 24 hours alone, I received hundreds, if not thousands, of tweets along these lines. The group behind all of this appears to be well-organized. Their goal is to convince -- or rather, scare -- companies into pulling their advertising from Glenn Beck's program.

Now, if you're a Glenn Beck hater (or not), please do me the courtesy of hearing me out before adding your thoughtful opinion below.

First, let me get something out of the way: I don't listen to Glenn Beck. I'm familiar with his schtick and I'm not a fan.

So why did we decide to advertise Blinds.com on Glenn Beck? In short, in an age of weakening advertising effectiveness and "message bombardment," endorsement radio has been a very effective way for us to reach new customers. We advertise on shows considered 'left' (National Public Radio), 'right' (Glenn Beck), and 'neither' (Dave Ramsey). It was a business decision.

I know what you might be thinking -- business decisions shouldn't be just about dollars and cents. I agree. You must also consider how your decisions affect your business and your personal reputation.

When I made the decision to advertise on Glenn Beck, I thought of it in the same way I thought of our decision to advertise on NPR: Just because we run a 60-second spot on a radio show doesn't mean I or my company agree with everything that's said on the program. Our agenda is pretty straightforward: We're trying to sell blinds and window treatments to folks who need them; it doesn't have anything to do with the agenda of the radio host. Obviously, if a host were overtly racist or inciting violence, we'd pull off. But when reasonable people can disagree on politics, we're not going to pick sides.

But is that what our customers will think?

I hesitated before writing this because I'm sure this post is bound to be used by the people who are hoping to tear my company down through a social media smear campaign. They've already taken my comments out of context and posted their vitriol pretty much anywhere they can find an audience. When I thanked a few free-speech supporters via Twitter, they pulled that out of context, too. The folks who showed support for me turned out to be another kind of fringe element who had said repugnant things about the anti-Beck folks. I was guilty by association.

I'm predicting a series of scripted and libelous comments below this article but I'm okay with that.

I believe in transparency, so I'm opening up the question to you: Should Blinds.com continue advertising on Glenn Beck, or should we stop? Are we sending the wrong message to existing and potential customers?

I started Blinds.com from my garage with my then entire life's savings -- only $3,000 -- and it's been a slow and steady process building the business. We've won Best Place to work in Houston, AMA Marketer of the Year, National Call Center of the Year, and the Better Business Bureau Award of Distinction. Because we grew and hired 40 percent more people last year, we were featured in the White House blog and on Katie Couric *CBS Evening News for doing our part to create local jobs in a very diverse community. Are we risking the goodwill we have with customers and with potential customers simply by advertising on a controversial talk show?

I hope not. What do you think?

(*Full disclosure: CBS owns BNET.)

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Photo courtesy of Flickr.com, by Gage Skidmore, CC 2.0
  • Jay Steinfeld On Twitter»

    Jay Steinfeld is the founder and CEO of Blinds.com, the industry leader in online window blinds sales. He is an Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year. His company was named Best Place to Work in Houston, won the American Marketing Association's Marketer of the Year, and Steinfeld was named by the Houston Chronicle as Houston's top CEO in the under-150 employee category for the last 2 years.

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