How Will Advertisers React to Imus' Comments?

Radio Personality's Controversial Remarks Could Cost Him Sponsors

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- The term "shock jock" lately has been reserved for the likes of Howard Stern or Opie & Anthony. Now Don Imus finds himself in hot water with two major media companies, thanks to comments he made last week on his "Imus in the Morning" talk show on CBS Radio and its accompanying MSNBC simulcast.
Don Imus on the Rev. Al Sharpton's radio show yesterday.
Don Imus on the Rev. Al Sharpton's radio show yesterday. Credit: AP

Another gaffe
Following the outcry after Mr. Imus made racially and sexually derogatory comments about the Rutgers University women's basketball team, he appeared on the Rev. Al Sharpton's radio show to apologize for his comments, only to refer to Mr. Sharpton and the African-American community as "you people." Both CBS and NBC Universal have suspended Mr. Imus and his program for two weeks following his remarks.

It wouldn't be the first time in recent memory a public figure has made off-color remarks about minorities (see Michael Richards' racial tirade back in November), but given that Mr. Imus has two sets of advertisers to keep happy amid all the controversy, he may find himself with less ad dollars behind his show when he returns to the airwaves April 23.

"I don't think they'd let this thing simmer," Brad Adgate, senior VP-research for Horizon Media, said of Mr. Imus' advertisers. "This is not something where he was caught off-guard or said something off the record and put on the internet. This could've happened 50 years ago."

Some have stayed a way
Not that Mr. Imus' program was friendly to all advertisers prior to his latest snafu. A spokesman for a major media agency who buys other shows on CBS said, "We have stayed long and far away from Imus."

Mr. Adgate said the two-week suspension should give marketers enough time to decide whether they will continue to advertise with Mr. Imus. "It really depends on what the threshold is for each advertiser. People are compiling sponsors for the show, probably getting letters. Everyone has a breaking point for what's appropriate to some and inappropriate to others."
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