Tucker Carlson: on-the-hoof ad boycotts show advertisers and agencies missing the real point

Even by Fox News standards Tucker Carlson is, um, outspoken from his right wing bully pulpit. And he’s dropped himself in it again with comments on the ‘Black Lives Matter’ George Floyd protest. At least he has with some of his audience, to wit six major advertisers.

Here’s HuffPost’s (not entirely impartial) account of his comments.

Out of order surely – “they’re coming for you” (who is exactly? Fox says he meant Democrat politicians – hmm) – but should advertisers respond in this way?

Disney, T-Mobile, SmileDirectClub, Papa John’s, Jackson Hewitt Tax Service, and Vari have all said they will no longer advertise on Tucker Carlson Tonight (although Fox says the ads have been placed elsewhere on the network.)

T-Mobile US CEO Mike Sievert was asked by a Twitter user if Carlson’s message was one T-Mobile could support and responded: “It definitely is not. Bye-bye Tucker Carlson! #BlackLivesMatter.”

Brands, we’re always being told, need to “do the right thing,” especially in times like these. But Carlson’s views are hardly unknown. If T-Mobile and the others don’t like them then don’t advertise on his show at all. Censoring (by pulling advertising) on the hoof – usually in response to something on Twitter – is hardly an enlightened policy. Advertisers are not editors.

One assumes that media agencies placed these ads. Don’t they look at the media they’re advertising on? Or do they just go by the numbers, or package deals or, even worse, is it placed programmatically – ie by a computer?

Values cut both ways. If you’re going to wear your heart on your sleeve when you don’t like something there’s also a responsibility to give such issues some thought beforehand.

The big ad holding companies, who own most media agencies, have been quick to proclaim their support for what we used to call liberal values. They could start by telling their media agencies to look harder at the media they support (and those that they don’t) in advance. Advertisers might usefully take a look too.

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About Stephen Foster

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Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.

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