February 9, 2017; Washington Post
Kellogg’s just wants to be considered wholesome. So how likely was it that its brand would be dragged into a political coliseum for an attempted extended mauling?
According to Kellogg’s, Breitbart’s attempt to organize a boycott against the company ended up having no discernible effect on its bottom line. As readers may remember, Breitbart.com, the conservative news site formerly run by Steve Bannon, now one of Trump’s top aides, launched a campaign—complete with a boycott of the company— after Kellogg’s put the site on its list of places not to advertise. This fits with a newswire published on the NPQ website yesterday, suggesting in part that some boycotts may not have a real bottom-line effect but still often affect the brand image.
At the time, Kellogg’s said its ads ended up on Breitbart through the use of automated ad space buying platforms. These programs allow companies to opt out of sites they believe would be a poor match for them. Generally, Kellogg’s works with media buying partners to ensure its ads don’t appear on sites that aren’t “aligned with [their] values,” but, in this case, the catch was not made in a timely way.
Even though the company had no “intention of getting into a political discussion,” that was soon foisted upon them as Breitbart.com not only ran ads encouraging a boycott but also ran story after story excoriating the company on their own. Among other things, Breitbart wrote that serving up Kellogg’s cereal was akin to serving hatred at your table—a strike against a reputed 45 million readers. Not exactly the brand image of your dreams.
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Kellogg’s was not the only company to opt out, of course; according to Sleeping Giants, which has been promoting more conscious ad buying, around 820 companies have chosen to withdraw their ads from potentially showing up on Breitbart.com. Even the Canadian Government has opted out, with an attendant statement. A spokesperson with Public Services and Procurement Canada, which oversees media buying for the federal government, told the Globe and Mail that the Canadian government found “the content of Breitbart.com did not align with the Government’s Code of Value and Ethics.”
“The Government of Canada does not support advertising on websites that are deemed to incite racial hatred, discrimination or the subversion of Canada’s democratic system of government,” the spokesperson continued.
Now some of the buying platforms are taking it upon themselves not to offer the site as an option. One of these platforms, AppNexus, said in late November that it had blocked Breitbart from using its ad-serving tools because the site violated its hate speech policy. Shortly after that announcement, two other ad platforms, TubeMogul and RocketFuel, did the same, according to Wired.
Still, this is also unlikely to have a significant effect on Breitbart’s bottom line unless other platforms also choose to exclude the site as an option from their buying packages. Alexander Marlow, an editor of Breitbart, told the Wall Street Journal that to date the site had felt “little to no impact” from the blacklisting.—Ruth McCambridge