Politics aside, what to make of the “apology” by Rush Limbaugh and the eight sponsors who have left his radio show?
The words spoken by Limbaugh about the Georgetown law student speaking before Congress on the issue of insurance paying for birth control will not be repeated here. They were crass and, frankly, stupid.
My question to advertisers is, “What did you expect?”
As Marshall McLuhan said, the medium is the message. If you advertise on Limbaugh’s radio show, your brand is connected with that show and all that it means. Sure, Limbaugh’s show attracts high ratings, and that’s why advertisers have flocked to it.
But this isn’t the first time Limbaugh has said inflammatory things. It’s the engine that drives the show. Those sponsors didn’t mind then because the ratings were so high, regardless of how offensive his comments might be.
You could make the argument, I suppose, that a line was drawn that advertisers like ProFlowers and Quicken Loans couldn’t step over. Sure, but it bears repeating: If you advertise on Limbaugh’s show or ESPN or, heck, CSI, you are associated with that show and the folks that watch or listen to them.
Think of it this way. Limbaugh has his own brand and it’s been highly successful. By associating with Limbaugh, though, you are partners in that brand.
It, along with all the other strategies you undertake, feed into what your brand means and stands up for. While it’s noble for those sponsors to leave and take a stand, spare me the drama. You knew what you were getting in to.
In fact, the sponsors who have stayed are the ones who have, ultimately, been the most honest with themselves.