North Carolina-based department store Belk does not check for political affiliation when it sells its wares to consumers – it just says thank you and please come again. However, an ad that ran within the confines of Rush Limbaugh’s daily show turned its Facebook page into a political debating platform.
According to the News and Observer, a group that monitors Limbaugh’s advertising noticed and reported the Belk ad, liberal website Daily Kos picked up on it and gave it extra publicity and soon private citizens were expressing their disapproval on Belk’s own Facebook page.
Belk said it told the vendor to keep its advertising away from talk radio – any talk radio, left, right or in between.
That of course did not solve the problem – soon the Belk site was hosting angry Facebook messages chastising it for abandoning Limbaugh.
A Belk spokesperson said this was why they stay out of talk radio in the first place.
RBR-TVBR observation: Controversy is one way to attract an audience, but it carries a price. We suspect that a program that attracts a narrow but fervent audience may be able to find advertisers who can appeal to whatever commonalities may exist within that audience.
But such a programming approach does risk scaring off advertisers with items of broad appeal to sell. They are well aware that dollars bills do not have political affiliations, and they do not want to do even the slightest thing to scare off even one of those dollars.
Perhaps it was easier to get away with this kind of programming a few years ago, but the advent of social media has probably changed that forever.
We believe that there is a place for controversy on the dial – however, it may take some thought and experimentation from some of the industry’s best and brightest marketing gurus to reformulate the strategies to monetize it to its full potential.