Boycott Success: Nearly 200 Advertisers Have Abandoned Rush Limbaugh

Kohler has joined the list of hundreds of other companies who have either dropped, or requested their ads not be associated with Limbaugh.

Via a tweet, Kohler became the 61st advertiser to drop Rush Limbaugh, “Thank you for your concern. We do not support the comments of Mr. Limbaugh and have pulled our advertising from his show.” Kohler joined a list of other corporate advertisers including AOL, Allstate, Geico, J.C. Penny, John Deere, H&R Block, Capital One, Netflix, and Sears who have dropped Limbaugh.

However, there is much more to the story than the list of 61 advertisers who have dropped Limbaugh. There are also two lists of hundreds of advertisers who have requested that their ads not be associated with Rush Limbaugh’s show. The first list of 98 advertisers who asked not to be run during Limbaugh, Beck, Hannity, Savage and other right wing talkers included, Ford, GM, Toyota, Prudential, State Farm, and McDonald’s.

Last week a second list of 31 advertisers who requested their advertising no longer is associated with Limbaugh’s program. This list included Advanced Auto and Progressive. It is evident that the quality of advertiser Rush Limbaugh is attracting has been declining due to the boycott. All the Fortune 500 A-listers that Limbaugh and Clear Channel need in order to be profitable have vanished. Even local advertisers have fled his show.

What this means is that no matter how much Limbaugh claims on the air that everything is fine, behind the scenes things are far from fine. There has been some arguing among the left about whether or not this boycott has been successful, and the right deemed the boycott a flop virtually from the moment it began. Whether or not one considers the boycott successful depends on how success is defined.

Is success defined as costing Limbaugh and Clear Channel money? If that is the criteria, then this boycott has already been a success. Is success defined as making companies more aware that their advertising decisions will have consequences? If so, then this boycott can already be considered a success. Is the only acceptable success getting Rush Limbaugh off the air? If this is the definition of success then the advertiser boycott is a failure.

Getting Rush Limbaugh off the air was always going to be nearly impossible. Rush Limbaugh’s deal is different than Glenn Beck’s was with Fox News. Limbaugh isn’t just on air talent. He is also the majority owner of his program.

What the boycott can and is accomplishing is holding talk radio accountable. For decades right wing talk radio has been an unfettered haven for extremist rhetoric and borderline hate speech. No matter what they said, hosts like Limbaugh, Beck, Hannity, and Savage were untouchable. They can and did get away with anything.

Talk radio in general is learning that things are changing. They aren’t immune from the consequences of controversy inspiring hate speech. Advertisers are going to have to be more cautious about where they put their radio ad dollars. They understand that their brand and reputation is also on the line. The Limbaugh boycott could mark a titanic shift in the business of talk radio.

Conservatives are correct about one thing. The free market is doing what no one else can. It is holding Rush Limbaugh accountable.

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