When advertisers say, ‘I didn’t know my ad was on Limbaugh’s Show’ or ‘I can’t do anything about it.’

Many of you have shared conversations with sponsors who say they either didn’t know their ads were on Limbaughs show or they “have no control over ad placement.” I am not an expert, but I’ve worked in marketing, I‘ve purchased radio ads over the years and have learned a little about the process. When an advertiser tells you they didn’t know, that is probably true. If they tell you that they  have no control over the placement, that is NOT TRUE.

An advertiser has the power to tell the station sales department that they DON’T WANT their ads on Limbaugh’s show. They pay the bills; they can insist. If the station still wants the advertiser’s money, they will oblige.

Radio stations know that most advertisers want to place their ads during the popular times of the day (usually during the morning or evening commute.)  Radio ad sales departments will sell per spot (aka slot) short-term or offer a package of spots which is usually a better price per.  Furthermore sales people often won’t guarantee the prime drive-time slots if you don’t at least purchase a package and will hold the best slots for advertisers who sign a contract for longer term packages.

Many “Rush Radio” affiliates are owned by companies that own more than one station and they’ll sell packages that place spots across all stations during drive-time and then rotate spots throughout their stations. When I was purchasing ads, I can remember buying a package over three days before an event, and the sales dept threw in extra ads on a station that isn’t as popular because they had empty slots in the middle of the day.

Stations get to play Limbaugh’s show for nothing in exchange for running national sponsors’ ads, those sponsors pay Clear Channel. The local stations get the revenue from the local ads they can sell in the spots not filled by national advertising.

When Clear Channel pulled all national advertisers from Limbaugh’s show for two weeks it was as much to placate local stations as to get the heat off their big money sponsors. Local stations were able to sell those empty spots and keep the money or run Clear Channel’s free Ad Council Ads.

Many of us are finding companies who say they want nothing to do w/Limbaugh and seem genuinely surprised their ads are on his show. That is probably true because they had no idea where the rotating ads would be placed, – and guess what? There were empty and available spots on Limbaugh’s show!

Important – most radio sales people know their local advertisors and want to make them happy. They need the local business.  They will respond to their clients by moving those ads, if that is what the client REALLY wants. Some larger companies use marketing agents to handle all of their advertising who make all of these arrangements so the advertiser is even more removed from the process. But those marketing agents bring important business to the radio stations, so again, radio station sales people want to make them happy.

The bottom line is, the companies running the ads  pay for the ads, so they have final say.  It’s all about the money. If a company purchasing ads find that customers are unhappy with their support or association of Rush Limbaugh, they should want to make customers happy and preserve their reputations. If radio stations want to keep their business, they will move their ads.

As more and more advertisers ask to have their ads taken off Limbaugh’s show – the stations need to fill those spots and companies that may have never found their ads on his show are suddenly learning their ad is slotted right there in the middle of the hate-speech. We are letting them know about this. If enough companies want their ads off of his show because they are getting negative feedback from the community, perhaps local stations will choose to run a different show…..

We need to remain vigilant about who is running ads each week. We need to share when we hear a national advertiser who was not there two or three weeks ago is heard on Limbaugh’s show and get that information to all of the places that are collecting these lists.

This is going to be a long process. We are sticking with it. We are in for the long haul. Keep up the good work.

  1. Mark St. John
    March 30, 2012 at 3:22 am

    These problems are compounded when you have national and local groups sharing the same trademark – like the Girl Scouts or General Motors. While the national brand may stay away, there are local buys that may end up in places the parent group would not condone.

    That said, in the cases of companies like GM, they tend to let local dealers deal with it and probably won’t ever get involved. If a dealer says “it brings me sales” GM is unlikely to tell its customer, the dealer, to stop advertising. The dealer is who really pays GM. It would have to be a thunderous event to have GM come down on its dealer customers.

    However, groups like the Girl Scouts have a real challenge. Their national offices get reports of ads, they work with local to get the pulled, leading to arguments with the public as to whether or not the ads are really pulled because everyone hears them now… In a new market from another local buy that didn’t realize what they were doing. In these cases, in addition to working with local affiliates, I think it is important to send information, encouragement and rational dialog with the national group to try to provide more guidance to the local groups.

    I have a feeling that the Girl Scouts local groups just bought in, either (a) having no idea their ads would be in a rotation that would put them on Rush or (b) they didn’t understand the possible challenges with advertising on Rush.

    I think in cases where there are local groups that have brought national names into this discussion, there needs to be a consistent, organized messaging to the national group that it would really be worth their while to communicate to their local groups the different ways to make media buys, the possible pitfalls of certain media formats, etc.

    My two cents from a self employed hick 🙂

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