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Profile: Geico

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The corporate logo of Sleep Train, the first business to remove its advertising from Rush Limbaugh’s show.The corporate logo of Sleep Train, the first business to remove its advertising from Rush Limbaugh’s show. [Source: Argyle News]Advertisers begin pulling their advertisements from the radio show hosted by Rush Limbaugh in response to Limbaugh’s repeated verbal attacks on Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke (see February 29, 2012, March 1, 2012, and March 2, 2012). The day before, Representative Jackie Speier (D-CA) made the following statement: “So I say to the women in this country, do something about this. I say to the women of this country, ask Century 21, Quicken Loans, LegalZoom, and Sleep Number to stop supporting the hate-mongering of Rush Limbaugh and if they do not do that, then I ask them to boycott those companies.” The first to withdraw its ads is mattress retailer Sleep Train, which says a barrage of angry complaints by its customers via Twitter led to its decision. Another bed manufacturer, Select Comfort/Sleep Number, follows suit within hours, posting on its own Twitter account: “Recent comments by Rush Limbaugh do not align w/our values, so we made decision to immediately suspend all advertising on that program.” A steadily increasing number of companies and organizations begin either canceling or suspending their ads, some on a national basis (i.e. via Limbaugh’s employer, Premiere Radio Networks, and that firm’s owner, Clear Channel) and some with local radio stations or regional radio networks. Some of the companies pulling their ads include Quicken Loans (which blames Limbaugh’s “continued inflammatory comments” for its decision), JCPenney, Capital One, AOL (formerly America Online), Citrix, LegalZoom, ProFlowers, Tax Resolution Services, Stamps.com, Polycom Federal, Vitacost, Sensa, and a number of local businesses. [Think Progress, 3/2/2012; MSNBC, 3/2/2012; New York Times, 3/2/2012; MSNBC, 3/2/2012; Joan McCarter, 3/2/2012; Think Progress, 3/2/2012; Think Progress, 3/5/2012; Think Progress, 3/6/2012; Think Progress, 3/6/2012] The online data security firm Carbonite pulls its advertising from Limbaugh’s show, with CEO David Friend writing on Carbonite’s Facebook page and later on its blog: “No one with daughters the age of Sandra Fluke, and I have two, could possibly abide the insult and abuse heaped upon this courageous and well-intentioned young lady. Mr. Limbaugh, with his highly personal attacks on Miss Fluke, overstepped any reasonable bounds of decency. Even though Mr. Limbaugh has now issued an apology (see March 3, 2012), we have nonetheless decided to withdraw our advertising from his show. We hope that our action, along with the other advertisers who have already withdrawn their ads, will ultimately contribute to a more civilized public discourse.” [Carbonite, 3/2/2012] On March 5, the national retailer Sears and men’s outfitter Bonobos also drop their advertising. Sears, which also owns Kmart, posts the following on Twitter: “Sears and Kmart did not intentionally advertise on the Rush Limbaugh show. Sears Holdings has taken actions to ensure our ads do not run on this show. We appreciate our customers, fans, and followers and thank you for your business.” [Think Progress, 3/5/2012]
Denying Advertising Connections - Capital One, Domino’s Pizza, eHarmony, AutoZone, LifeQuotes, Oreck, and a number of other firms deny having bought ad time on Limbaugh’s show, with some noting that due to the nature of the type of advertising they have bought, their ads could have been aired during Limbaugh’s show without their knowledge. Many of these firms promise to take action to ensure that their ads do not air during Limbaugh’s show in the future. [Think Progress, 3/2/2012; MSNBC, 3/2/2012; New York Times, 3/2/2012; MSNBC, 3/2/2012; Joan McCarter, 3/2/2012; Think Progress, 3/2/2012]
Errors, Lack of Control over Advertising - The non-profit organization Goodwill explains that ads for its organization that ran on a Washington, DC-area Limbaugh broadcast were aired in error, stating: “The Goodwill public service announcement… aired without Goodwill’s knowledge or consent. No further Goodwill public service announcements will be aired without our permission.… The PSA [public service announcement] that aired was intended for a DC-area music station but a sister station that airs Rush Limbaugh ran the PSA without our knowledge or consent.” Amberen, a small company that produces a fat-reduction supplement, explains that it cannot pull its advertising from Limbaugh’s broadcasts on local radio stations, saying: “We understand that some of our customers are concerned that Amberen ads are still airing on the Rush Limbaugh show. Lunada Biomedical assures you that we take these concerns to heart! Most of our employees, including the CEO, are female. And like millions of other Americans we were outraged by Rush Limbaugh’s incendiary and offensive comments. However, we are a small company that buys remnant (leftover) media time and, as such, we cannot, by definition, be considered the ‘sponsors’ of Mr. Limbaugh’s show or, for that matter, any other show. Because we purchase this leftover airtime in bulk, we have no control over when and where our ads are going to be aired. Nor do we have the ability to ‘pull’ ads from any specific show. The only way for us to do that would be to put our entire advertising campaign on hold. Again, because we are a ‘remnant’ and not a ‘premium’ advertiser, this action will exert no influence on Mr. Limbaugh’s show.” Several companies, such as insurance giants Allstate and Geico, home remodeling service provider ServiceMagic.com, weight loss seller RightSize, and online film and DVD rental outlet Netflix, say they do not advertise on Limbaugh’s broadcasts, and any ads airing during his show were placed in error by local radio stations. [Atlantic Wire, 3/5/2012; Think Progress, 3/5/2012; Mark Frauenfelder, 3/6/2012]

Entity Tags: Capital One, AutoZone, Sensa, Sears, Sandra Fluke, Rush Limbaugh, Sleep Number, Sleep Train, Stamps.com, Tax Resolution Services, AOL, Allstate, Amberen, Bonobos, Vitacost, RightSize, Quicken Loans, eHarmony, Premiere Radio Networks, David Friend, ProFlowers, Domino’s, Clear Channel, Century 21, Carbonite, Citrix, Geico, ServiceMagic.com, JCPenney, Goodwill, Lunada Biomedical, Oreck, Netflix, LifeQuotes, LegalZoom, Jackie Speier, Polycom Federal

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda

Premiere Radio Networks logo.Premiere Radio Networks logo. [Source: Premiere Radio Networks]Premiere Radio Networks, the company that distributes radio shows by an array of right-wing hosts, including Rush Limbaugh, announces that 98 out of 350 advertisers, including a number of major corporations, have requested that their ads only appear on “programs free of content that you know are deemed to be offensive or controversial (for example, Mark Levin, Rush Limbaugh, Tom Leykis, Michael Savage, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity).” The Premiere email says, “Those are defined as environments likely to stir negative sentiment from a very small percentage of the listening public.” Limbaugh vilified law student Sandra Fluke for three days on his radio show (see February 29, 2012, March 1, 2012, and March 2, 2012), and though he issued an apology on his Web site (see March 3, 2012), advertisers have dropped their sponsorship of his show in increasingly large numbers (see March 2, 2012 and After) following a widespread outcry of anger against Limbaugh’s rhetoric. Now, large advertisers such as Ford, General Motors, Toyota, Allstate, Geico, Prudential, State Farm, McDonald’s, and Subway Restaurants have asked that their advertising be removed from Premiere’s right-wing talk shows. Industry insider Valerie Geller tells a reporter: “I have talked with several reps who report that they’re having conversations with their clients, who are asking not to be associated with specifically polarizing controversial hosts, particularly if those hosts are ‘mean-spirited.’ While most products and services offered on these shows have strong competitors, and enjoy purchasing the exposure that many of these shows and hosts can offer, they do not wish to be ‘tarred’ with the brush of anger, or endure customer anger, or, worse, product boycotts.” For nearly two decades, Limbaugh has been at the forefront of the movement that insisted conservative talk shows on radio and television must counterbalance what he and others have termed the “liberal bias” of the mainstream media (see Summer 1970, October 7, 1996, October 9, 2002, October 8, 2003, December 2004, December 14, 2005, December 19-20, 2005, December 21, 2005, May 2008, October 23-24, 2008, February 24, 2009, and August 11, 2009). After cable television and Internet access fragmented the market, “niche” audiences such as Limbaugh’s have provided the most reliable listenership and viewers, and the highest comparative ratings. However, the demographics are changing for right-wing talk. Limbaugh, Levin, Savage, Hannity, and others generally rate best among aging white males, a demographic that is less profitable than it used to be. Now, the prize advertising demographic is women aged 24 to 55, a demographic that has been leaving the right-wing talkers in steadily increasing numbers, and now makes up the forefront of the angry pushback against Limbaugh over his public savaging of a young female law student over a political disagreement. Some, including Limbaugh’s brother, right-wing talk show host David Limbaugh, have complained of a “left-wing jihad” against conservative radio hosts. However, as reporter John Avlon writes: “[T]he irony is that the same market forces that right-wing talk-radio hosts champion are helping to seal their fate. Advertisers are abandoning the shows because they no longer want to be associated with the hyperpartisan—and occasionally hateful—rhetoric. They are finally drawing a line because consumers are starting to take a stand.” Moreover, the advent of social media has made the response time for protesters and angry consumers almost immediate. Geller says: “In the past, a letter, petition, or phone campaign took a few days to put together and longer to execute. But now customers [listeners] can instantly rally using Facebook, Twitter, and instant messaging to make their displeasure with a client, product, or service known immediately. These movements can happen fast.” Avlon concludes: “When big money starts shifting, it is a sign of a deeper tide that is difficult to undo, even if you are an industry icon like Rush Limbaugh. It is a sign that the times are changing. Let’s hope that what emerges is an evolution of the industry, away from stupid, predictable, and sometimes hateful hyperpartisanship and toward something a little smarter and more civil.” [Radio-Info.com, 3/9/2012; Daily Beast, 3/10/2012]

Entity Tags: Mark Levin, Valerie Geller, General Motors, Geico, Ford Motor Company, Allstate, John Avlon, Tom Leykis, Toyota Motor Corporation, State Farm, Premiere Radio Networks, Michael Savage, McDonald’s, Prudential, Subway Restaurants, Glenn Beck, Sandra Fluke, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda

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