April 4, 2007

And Now, A Word to Rosie's Sponsors

I'm not much for joining movements. The last one I joined was the Vietnam Day Committee back in 1965, and that didn't turn out very well for the Vietnamese. Nor for Americans -- except for those who still float fermented in the fetid vats of their long-lost youth today. But I do believe that the effort to yank Rosie O'Donnell off The View by going around the vapid and hapless Barbara Walters and her cynical producers is worth the effort. It goes around it by "following the money" and communicating directly to the products that keep The View's gravy train flowing.

I know through long experience in book and magazine publishing that "Letters to the Editor" are worth exactly zip, squat, nada -- except for giving the editors free copy to run ads against. Cutting into the advertising money, however, does something much more direct and immediately gets the attention of the producers and the network executives. It's fine to have some controversial Downs-method actor mouth 911 Conspiracy theories since it bumps up the ratings. But when ratings go up and revenues go down, that's another story.

When corporations hear from enough people that they will stop buying their products because of O'Donnell, they will -- trust me -- stop advertising. Corporations do not exist to piss off their customers in any way.

Here's a video from Michelle that nicely sums up the case and is pleasing to watch as well:

Here's a blog that lists all of the products that sponsor The View, Falling Panda.

And here's the theory and practice of NO MORE LETTERS TO THE EDITOR first composed here in 2004. Robert Scheer got gonged off the LA Times. So can Rosie. If you and I and enough people take the time to tell her sponsors that as long as they pay her, we're not going to pay them:

Quit Being a Chump and Start Being Effective: Here's How to Make Your Views Matter to the Mass Media

EDITORS LOVE IT when you write outraged letters to them, but not for the reasons you might think.

Editors love your outraged letters because it tells they you're reading them. They love your letters, even when you scold them, because it shows you care.

Editors love printing your letter that takes them to task because it shows they are pleased to balance a large chunk of airtime or copy with a few seconds or inches of dissent.

But the dirty little secret beneath the editors' love for your outraged letter is that means, almost all of the time, that you didn't send that letter to one of the editors' advertisers.

Editors hate it when people write to the advertisers. If enough people write, editors have to have a conversation with their advertising director. Not that anything will come of it, but they hate the casual watercooler conversation that begins, "We're getting some heat from Nike about that dingbat Robert Scheer, can't you get him to..."

"Now, now, you know there's a wall between news and advertising."

"Sure, but I just want you to know that Nike is..."

If you don't think conversations like that happen, you just don't know the "media business."

If enough letters get written not to editors but to advertisers, the editor then gets to have a conversation he really hates -- a conversation with the publisher.

"When the advertisers get nervous, the publisher gets nervous."

The publisher of a newspaper, or director of a radio or television network, looks at the business of the operation. He is responsible to the owners or the stockholders. The owners or stockholders care first and foremost about the health of the business. When the advertisers get nervous, the publisher gets nervous.

That's why if you want to make your feelings felt about the way the news is handled by an element of the mass media you are wasting energy, cycles and stamps writing to the editor or producers. They just enjoy it and use it to further their agendas.

If you want to have an effect larger than a letter of complaint, put your energy on the akido point of today's media, advertising.

There is no newspaper in the land that can survive without advertising. Their entire business model is built on the revenue from advertisers. Whether or not you buy a copy or cancel a subscription means less than nothing to them -- even when it happens in the thousands -- unless it annoys or chills their advertisers.

Today, the mass media is still struggling back from the severe ad slump generated by the dotcom implosion, 9/11, and the resulting recession. For the first time in a number of years, the forecast is looking good for advertising across the board. But it is still shaky and advertisers -- through the advertising agencies -- still make critical decisions on where billions of dollars in paid advertising will flow.

In the main, this money follows demographics and circulation/ratings, but not always. Since many publications and shows have similar demographics and equivalent circulations, many shows compete for the same advertising dollar. And any little thing can cause those dollars to move.

While editors and producers tend to live within a carefully circumscribed bubble of like-minded folk within their newsrooms, publishers and media advertising salespeople have to confront the business edge daily. If the corporate client of one of the advertising agencies that is currently buying space or time from the media outlet in question is unhappy, the business end of that media operation feels it very quickly.

"In the great mass media food chain, the advertiser is the big supermarket at the top and he reserves the right to refuse service to anybody for any reason."

That's because the advertising agency that creates the corporate client's advertising and places it in a program of media buys is subject, at any moment, to be fired by that corporation if the corporation doesn't think the advertising is "effective." Read the advertising trade publications and you'll find that the biggest news beat is always who has fired what agency over what issue and who is going to what agency as a result.

In the great mass media food chain, the advertiser is the big supermarket at the top and he reserves the right to refuse service to anybody for any reason. He is very sensitive and very touchy and very cranky. Nobody below him on the chain likes to make him the least bit upset.

That's why, if you don't like the agenda of a media organization, you need to upset the advertiser. If that happens enough, you'll see some changes made.

"How can you write to an advertiser if you see something you don't like in a major media outlet? It is simplicity itself especially for national media."

So if you see a story or a trend that you don't like as an individual, it is your right and your duty to complain to the people who make it possible, the advertisers. You'll recall a number of times in the past couple of decades when the media have run stories on this or that consumer boycott or letter writing campaign aimed at this or that bit of corporate behavior or advertising campaign. You'll find some follow up stories on how effective this tactic proved to be, but few. You'll not find still fewer stories praising this tactic unless it advanced "victims' rights." That's understandable since this tactic threatens to break the rice bowl of the media reporting the story. It's not that they consciously slant it, but that they don't see the need to emphasize stories about a tactic that, carried far enough, could threaten the mortgage payments of the editors and reporters in the newsroom.

And make no mistake, carried far enough that's just what complaining to advertisers can do.

How can you write to an advertiser if you see something you don't like in a major media outlet? It is simplicity itself especially for national media.

First you note which advertiser is closest to the offending newspaper, magazine, radio, or television story. Position is something that is a factor in an advertising buy and it often indicates that a specific advertiser has chosen that slot because something has convinced him that his ad will be most effective there. This isn't always the case, but it will narrow down the target.

The next step is to determine the corporation behind the ad. In the case of national brand names, this is not all that difficult, but in the case of conglomerates it might take a little more digging. In either case, it is merely a matter of following your Goggle.

"All companies have an internal metric by which they measure customer displeasure."

All public corporations are listed on the major stock exchanges. All listings have links to the corporation's home page. Each corporate home page has the name and address of the CEO of that corporation. Sometimes there's even an email address for the CEO. This person is the one to whom you will address your complaint. You can send an email or a real letter as you prefer, but know that a real letter is given more weight in the company simply because it took you more trouble. In either case, all companies have an internal metric by which they measure customer displeasure. One letter may factor to 10 or 100 or 1000 displeased customers. It all depends, but in any case one letter has a lot more weight to a company than it does to a newsroom. In a newsroom, you letter is just another bit of entertainment. In a company, it is cause for alarm.

I hasten to add that the chances your letter will actually be seen or read by the CEO of Disney, Nike, General Motors, etc. is slim to none, but that's not the point. If enough letters on a subject are received by a corporation what the CEO will see is a number on a report. If that number is large enough, the CEO will ask what is going on with the advertising buys at this or that media outlet. He will expect an answer. If it is an answer that threatens enough of the company's revenue stream, the advertising will be pulled and the advertising agency either fired or put on notice. This will have a chilling effect felt all the way down the media food chain. If the chill becomes deep enough, it will cause frostbite and the loss of toes in the newsroom.

"You could write hundreds of letters about [Robert Scheers] quisling screeds to the editor and they would just join the tens of thousands of others in the circular file."

To see what this form of letter-writing can do, imagine for a moment the situation of Los Angeles Times columnist Robert Scheer. While Scheer's talents may be meager, his bias large and transparent, and his anti-Americanism a career path of long standing, his position as a pet of the left at the Los Angeles Times seems unassailable. They would have to be graphic video tapes of his long-ago commune nights available to even begin to cause him trouble. You could write hundreds of letters about his quisling screeds to the editor and they would just join the tens of thousands of others in the circular file. They are all just "good for a laugh" over an expense account lunch. You could cancel your subscription as tens of thousands of others have done. The Times would just, as it has done, mount a campaign to give you home delivery of the paper for a dollar a week in order to replace them. Letters to the Editor and subscription cancellations will have no effect. Scheer will be back peddling his bile the very next week with no end in sight.

But imagine if a concerted campaign were mounted asking the companies advertising in the Los Angeles Times why they continue to spend good money supporting this quisling. Imagine if those letters contained choice quotations from Scheer and asked if the company agreed with him since it would seem, by where they were spending their money, they might. Imagine if the letters were to arrive at these companies in such numbers that they would prompt a "review" of advertising priorities. This can and does happen.

"A withdrawal of one major advertiser from a major newspaper means the loss of many millions of dollars to that paper. Worse still, it makes other major advertisers consider the same action."

Imagine that in the wake of these reviews, one or two major companies decided to pull their advertising from the Los Angeles Times and place it elsewhere in community papers or on local television channels. A withdrawal of one major advertiser from a major newspaper means the loss of many millions of dollars to that paper. Worse still, it makes other major advertisers consider the same action.

The result is that the position of Robert Scheer at the Los Angeles Times ceases to be just a concern of the newsroom and a subject for idle conversation over lunch. It becomes an item in a cost/benefit analysis.

The CEO of the company that owns the Los Angeles Times will call the Publisher of the Los Angeles Times. He will ask what the Publisher is doing about their multi-million dollar liability. There will be a pro-forma exchange of views about the "wall" between advertising and editorial, and then they will both return to "working the numbers." Following that call, and the Publisher will have a meeting with the Vice-President of Advertising which the Editor will be required to attend. The VP of Advertising will be in a very bad mood since his bonus and the commissions of his salespeople will have been chopped. The Editor will blather a bit about the "wall" between advertising and editorial. The Publisher will make comforting and understanding noises, but will then return to "working the numbers." The meeting will then focus on "what we are going to do about Robert Scheer and what's the best way to do it."

And all because you finally got fed up with writing a letter to the editor and decided to write a letter to the advertiser instead. Of course, you don't have to give this up completely. "Letters to the Editor" are why God made the "cc:" field.

Posted by Vanderleun at April 4, 2007 11:18 AM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

Why do you want Rosie off The View? You don't say.

Posted by: snarly at April 4, 2007 1:48 PM

I'm totally with you on this one, as I too picked up the advertisers from HotAir today.

And you're exactly right, we can make a huge difference in knowing where to aim that slingshot in David and Goliath fashion. And it best be aimed at advertisers, rather than editors and producers.

Ready, aim....fire......

I have to say I can live without everything on the list forever, except one: I'm going to keep my little bottle of Pepto Bismol for the next time I travel in Turkey or some other Third World country.....last year it saved my life, I'm sure, after too much fun eating seafood on the Asia side of Istanbul.

But, the rest can be gone forever.

Posted by: Webutante at April 4, 2007 2:08 PM

A agree - At first I thought that stopping the murder of the unborn was what I should be doing but I have snarked and snarked about liberals for 7 years and not 1 unborn was saved. It's a much more meaningful use of my energies to snark about Rosie. Maybe someday Republickins will be in control of all three branches of government and then maybe we can really do God's work and stop the killing of the unborn.

Until then, look out Rosie, you're an abonmination in Gods eyes and I am called to fight you any way I can.

Bless you brother for showing me the true righteous way - Bless you.

Posted by: Nicollo MacPlato at April 4, 2007 4:14 PM

Maybe someday Republickins will be in control of all three branches of government and then maybe we can really do God's work and stop the killing of the unborn.

You are a freak. Do you read this? A freak. You want to destroy the entire constitutional structure of our 200+ year history to create a fascist-religous state? You should go to Egypt or Iran - they have those types of governments there. God is not happy with you way of thinking.

Posted by: Tom at April 4, 2007 6:29 PM

is this where i am supposed to be wringing my hands and whining about how you are "silencing" points of view that you disagree with, which you all accuse liberals of doing all the time? let's just remember this so when and if liuberals try to do the same thing for any number of conservative blowhards, we all can agree this is a completely fair tactic.

for what it's worth, i think this is a perfectly acceptable form of action, and i couldn't care either way if rosie is off the air. but, it's also a perfectly acceptable way to try and get conservatives off the air, too. capiche?

Posted by: tim at April 4, 2007 6:29 PM

Sometimes, the best thing to do with a fool is to to let them continue to hoist their own petard.

Posted by: walt moffett at April 4, 2007 7:08 PM

Do not boycott all the products at once. This just waters your efforts. Too many boycotts at once attempt to hit a number of goods and services which appeal to different types of people. Pick one which would be vulnerable to bad publicity and to a gouge out of the gross income. Then lean on them. One success would panic others.

Posted by: Bleepless at April 4, 2007 7:37 PM

It's still interesting really, how little we know about the First Amendment. We not only have the freedom of speech, we also have the right individual censorship and discernment. That includes voting with our pocketbooks. And it's a right that both the left and the right share equally.

So here's a little example: Let's say I have a story that I really like that I wrote on, say, a hospital I visited recently in Israel and want to get Gerard to publish it at Pajamas Media. Well, for whatever reason, he reads it and doesn't like it or is bored to tears by my lack of verve. I on the other hand think it's swell. But he throws it into the trash bin.

Do I get all huffy, after trying and trying to push this piece. Do I accuse him of trying to silence me?

No, I just say he has lousy taste and move on. I can forget it, rewrite it, or try to sell it to another pair of pajamas.

He has the right to accept or reject my stuff for good reason or no reason at all. And I, like Rosie, can peddle it elsewhere and find other patrons or sponsors.

The First Amendment guarantees we'll all be offended, rejected and spit upon at times.

Oh now, Gerard..about that hospital story...

Posted by: Webutante at April 4, 2007 7:49 PM

I see we have the usual assortment of clueless comments by idiots from both sides of the parody aisle.

Not only can you write a mean piece and bestir the troops, Gerard, but you provoke your half-witted hecklers into doing for you what letter writers do for newspaper editors.

As always, my hat is off to the master.

Posted by: AskMom at April 4, 2007 10:14 PM

It is perfectly within your rights as an American citizen to boycott advertisers of a television show you find objectionable. Both sides do it. Using capitalism to remove an idiot from the airwaves is a time-honored tradition.

I doubt you will be very successful though. We like our "stuff" too much. Remember that the American Family Association has a string of failed boycotts including of Disney and Ford for their gay friendly policies. People like their Fords and they like taking the kids to Disneyland.

Similarly, people have been trying to smash right wing radio. While they have gotten many advertisers to shy away from Limbaugh, Hannity, and their ilk, for every large mainstream business that pulled their advertising dollars, three small businesses eagerly took up the slots. Losing the money of mega-corporations and gaining the money of small businesses generally makes a talking head look BETTER, in the end.

Maybe ABC will get nervous and do your bidding. But I think they will spin it as "wingnuts target Rosie" and get a whole lot of ratings out of it.

I like Rosie O'Donnell, but since I have been part of successful campaigns to get newspapers to drop Ann Coulter, I would never condemn someone else for using the same tactics.

Posted by: Lisa at April 5, 2007 5:52 AM

I don't follow the reasoning for boycotting her. Glenn Beck asked the other day if she was "really even a woman". Is it because she's a lesbian and liberal so her career should end?

No one here says what she did wrong.

Posted by: Dan at April 5, 2007 5:55 AM

I love it when the right wing wussies whine and cry because they can't answer Rosie's arguments so they attack her personally and demand that she not be allowed to show what weak minded fools the Limbaugh/Hannity/Coulter cult really are.

Keep up the good work all you Neo-clods.

Hillary Clinton appreciates your help in getting her elected President.


Posted by: Volt at April 5, 2007 7:48 AM

You are some truly brave and honorbale men and women! A failed war in Afghanistan, a failing war in Irag, over 3,000 Americans and 30,000 Iraqi's dead, Americans still living in trailers in New Orleans, but you brave sould have decided to take on....Rosie O'Donnell? Seiously? What a bunch of ass clowns.

Posted by: seamus at April 5, 2007 8:08 AM

You should be fighting every day for the expulsion of The Bush & Crony Crime Family. The shredders of our beloved Constitution, the destroyers of our essential military. Torturers, mass murdering war crimials & war profiteers.

Instead you go after Rosie. You are a pathetic kool-aid drinker.

Posted by: tommo at April 5, 2007 8:45 AM

Point well take el tommo. I shall take a memo to self to do as you do and, every morning get up and tinfoil my loins, as you do, and grab my butter knife, as you do, and roll right out on the street ready to take on the vasty Krime Family that is so shredding the "I 'HEART' Constitution." So shredding that folks like you can hardly skip down the street without being tailed, followed, and spied on in your full frontal war to go get those murderin' war krimnals and other varmints that trouble your sleep. Thank you for the instructions. I am now well informed.

Posted by: Gerard Van der Leun at April 5, 2007 10:17 AM

I wonder what was really in the bag Michelle threw out? Does she expect us to believe she paid good money for all those products (thus defeating the purpose of a boycott) just to toss them in the rubbish pail?

Posted by: Jheka at April 5, 2007 9:23 PM

What do you do if you have never bought x's product in the first place? Or have never watched Rosie?

BTW, you sure have drawn a lot of trolls. Good thing you don't have sponsors or as sure as shootin' they would be subject to angry campaigns. As for accusing you of not meeting Rosie's arguments (does she actually have reasoned arguments?), I don't know how seriously you should take such castigation from people who, refusing argument themselves, are prodigal with the ad hominem rages.

Posted by: Gilbert Brahms at April 6, 2007 10:17 AM

I just don't understand how these drive by spewers get off. Maybe they moonlight as a Rosie surge protector. Keep up the good work!

Posted by: tommy thefinger at April 6, 2007 11:16 AM

Just make sure that you don't confuse your boycott list with your shopping list... As for Malkin spitting out an M & M, that was brilliant.

Posted by: Devil's Advocate at April 6, 2007 1:54 PM

"Just make sure that you don't confuse your boycott list with your shopping list... As for Malkin spitting out an M & M, that was brilliant."

Posted by: Devil's Advocate at April 6, 2007 1:54 PM

You altered my post. I did not write "brilliant". I wrote "really classy". And it was snarky!

Posted by: Devil's Advocate at April 9, 2007 12:57 PM

Rosie should be taken off all airways. She is disgusting and out of line. ABC should be called Always Bashing Citizens or Always Bashing Christians.

Posted by: linda cason at April 13, 2007 4:28 AM

I think that the music was a wonderful touch...it had a real, sing-songy right wing 1950's simplicity about it...Gosh, if only they good bring back the old time religion for all of us, we could just white wash our way into better days...wouldn't it be better if we could just silence everyone who disagrees with the teachings of Jesus? Lord a-mighty, he most surely resides in the White House. And I am proud to be among this nations' Religious Right cause we are surely right. Right? RIGHT???

Posted by: Mark at April 14, 2007 3:16 PM

This information is much too valuable to be presented in a small, unscalable font.

I would like to read more of your writings but not under these conditions.

Scalable fonts please!

(You can leave the Rosie-lovers' comments small. Like their brains yuk yuk.)

Posted by: disenfranchised and wealthy at April 24, 2007 8:12 PM

I am disappointed that any spnosr, no matter who, would get involved in petty stuff like what one commentator said. I for one will not watch the view any longer.. and I will cease buying Tide after nearly 30 years of use.

i don't want to support a show or a product that is so small minded.

She was one women, with one opinion... since when is that a crime..

Posted by: Deb Haynes at April 25, 2007 10:47 AM