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To Advertise or Not To Advertise? That Is a Question of Late

To Advertise or Not To Advertise? That Is a Question of Late

Cable news and late-night topical talk shows are hot placements for advertising but how can brands take advantage of the heat without getting burned?


If a show has a loyal, engaged audience, advertisers on that show are likely to benefit by association. When a brand buys ad time on a partisan cable show they are also buying access to an impassioned audience.

If someone is a huge fan of Fox’s Sean Hannity or MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, do they associate the brand advertising on those shows with their own personal values? Most consumers are savvy enough to know that just because a company places an ad on a show they are not endorsing the content of that show.

Still, advertisers cringe or even pull their ads when personal image or comments go awry.

Recent scandals surrounding former Fox News personality Bill O’Reilly (sexual harassment accusations) and HBO’s Bill Maher (used the “N” word during a live broadcast) prove that a brand’s reputation can be damaged in a split second.

While HBO is not ad-supported, its many subscribers likely did not appreciate Maher’s outburst, even though he apologized profusely afterwards.

Sensitivities and strong emotions mean any brand has to think smart and stay in front of an evolving situation.

If I were an advertiser I’d want my ads placed where my audience is watching, especially if there is some heat, energy, focus from that audience.

In the midst of negative publicity, it’s easy to forget the upside of advertising on potentially controversial programs. Here are some considerations for brands and ad buyers as they evaluate advertising placements:

  • Have a well defined, contractually binding policy in place about what kind of content crosses the line.
  • Spend across the spectrum.
  • Manage placement on an on-going basis.

The alternative–not advertising on cable news or unpredictable talks shows–in a moment in time when it’s never been more relevant, is missing a huge opportunity. The risk is eminently manageable.

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