With each passing day, the firestorm rages hotter against Rush Limbaugh for his recent comments that a Georgetown law student and contraception activist Sandra Fluke was a “slut” and a “prostitute” for testifying before Congress about the health benefits of birth control pills. As a result, over 150 advertisers have pulled their ads from the show with more being added every day.
These advertisers spent hundreds of thousands to actively advertise to Limbaugh’s audience and are now recoiling from the fallout. Advertisers are quickly trying to protect themselves from the raw rage from the public who don’t agree with Limbaugh’s opinion. While some groups are forming benign boycotts that never seem to work, others are actively threatening and harassing companies if they don’t comply to their demands.
We heard from a client today that such a “passionate” group left a harsh voice mail threatening that they will post malicious comments about the brand on store review pages on Google, Yelp and throughout social media if they don’t pull all their online advertising from Limbaugh’s page by the end of the day.
Unfortunately, for this brand, they are not a Limbaugh advertiser but may soon feel the same heated aggression and vigilantism as if they were.
Here is why.
Many brands these days are spending a lot of their ad dollars engaged in site retargeting. Site retargeting is when a visitor visits your website and then leaves and goes to another website. When they get to that new site, at some point, your ad appears on that new site based on the fact that they were on your site previously. (For a more detailed, yet simple explanation of site retargeting, click here).
While this is an effective way for a brand’s online advertising to follow someone who has already expressed interest in your brand, it is causing collateral damage for some brands because of the Limbaugh firestorm.
If your brand is actively using site retargeting as an advertising strategy, people who have visited your website in the past few days may now see your ad plastered on the Rush Limbaugh page. While your brand is not an active advertiser, you now appear to be in full support of his show and therefore its content. Unfortunately for the average consumer, they do not realize that some of the banner ads they see on any given page are a result of site retargeting and not paid advertising for that web page.
So, the question becomes, how many brands will be boycotted or, worse yet, be subject to hateful threats and protests because their online advertising strategy of site retargeting places their ads on Limbaugh’s page?
If you are experiencing this collateral damage, how are you responding to customers and consumers about it? Do they understand or accept the fact that you are not advertising on the Limbaugh site?