I never really thought that the conservative Fox News talk show host Glenn Beck and shock jock Howard Stern had much in common -- but now I do. As Stern did before him, Beck is about to become a no-fly zone for blue-chip advertisers. Goodbye Swiffer, hello Shamwow.
I've come to this conclusion after reading two stories today regarding the decision by some blue-chip advertisers (some of which appeared on "Glenn Beck" by mistake, but that's another story) to ensure that their ads not appear on his program. This, after, Beck -- who seems to be one of those people who will say anything for a headline -- declared recently that President Obama has a "deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture." Ironically, Beck didn't say this on his own show; he said it on "Fox and Friends," so this isn't just bad news for Beck; it's bad news for Fox News, and MSNBC, for that matter. (More on that below.) There's a bitter debate about advertising on Beck's show currently going on at the Ad Age site, where one of the stories I read ran. Some say that the two million viewers on Beck's show are a nice, huge audience that advertisers want, and others disagree, saying: "I wouldn't put my clients' brands on Fox News if the time were free, and I'm heartened by those marketers who agree with me."
While there's a case to be made for both points of view, advertisers are a skittish bunch; they also have plenty of options of where to put their ad dollars. There's no reason to court controversy by advertising on "Glenn Beck" -- or "Countdown with Keith Olbermann", for that matter -- when there are hundreds of other places to advertise. It's not worth getting involved. Procter & Gamble is one of those advertisers whose ads appeared on Beck's show, probably as part of a broad buy on Fox News that didn't specify inclusion or exclusion in particular shows, and now it finds it can't win for losing. It has told Fox that it doesn't want its commercials to air on "Glenn Beck" -- so have Progressive Insurance, Wal-Mart, ConAgra and Geico. But even as it reacted to consumer complaints about advertising on the show, right-wing bloggers have been urging supporters to boycott P&G for pulling its commercials from the show. P&G is damned if it does, and damned if it doesn't.
Advertisers are on TV to get sales, not become embroiled in political controversies. As the partisan debate gets uglier, expect more advertisers to steer clear of Fox News and MSNBC. As was the case when Howard Stern was on commercial radio, there's no upside to getting involved, even when the potential audience is huge.
Other coverage of advertisers and political talk shows on BNET Media: