Wegmans Agrees to Return Yanked Alec Baldwin Ads to TV

In Wake of Airline Fiasco, Supermarket Chain Had Pulled Ads Featuring Star

By Published on .

Supermarket chain Wegmans is proving itself an incredibly fickle advertiser.

The Rochester, N.Y.-based company has benefited from the endorsement of Alec Baldwin as its spokesperson, but quickly cut ties with him and yanked ads in which he starred after Mr. Baldwin was accused of being unruly on an American Airlines flight recently. According to an Associated Press report, the TV spots were filmed for the holiday season and were supposed to run for three weeks last month but were pulled early after Baldwin's airline dustup.

Alec Baldwin
Alec Baldwin Credit: Bloomberg
The story with that incident goes that Mr. Baldwin was asked to leave the plane after refusing to stop playing the Scrabble-like mobile game "Words with Friends" prior to takeoff. "Words with Friends" defended the star in a released photo that spelled out the phrase "Let Alec Play" and showed a fictional score on the game of Baldwin 1, American Air, 0.

To be sure, doing ads for this regional grocery chain couldn't have much of a moneymaking enterprise for Mr. Baldwin. During an appearance on the "Late Show with David Letterman" last April, the actor explained that he did the ads for his mother, a cancer survivor who lives in upstate New York and has refused to move from the area largely because she loves Wegmans stores so much. Her enthusiasm for the brand is what sparked his decision to do the ads, he told Mr. Letterman.

Unlike "30 Rock" or other comedic roles, these ads are pretty straightlaced, with him talking about "low prices" and "friendly, caring people who make you feel like family." The spots have been made private on YouTube and can't be viewed there, but can be seen as part of this ABC broadcast.

Apparently Wegmans thinks it made a mistake in yanking the spots in the first place. In a statement provided to a local ABC news affiliate, the company said: "We regret ending the Alec Baldwin holiday commercials one week earlier than planned in response to a couple of dozen complaints. We have decided to run the commercials again, effective immediately. Clearly, many more people support Alec, as evidenced by the hundreds and hundreds of tweets, emails, and phone calls we have received. We enjoyed working with Alec Baldwin and his mom, Carol, and would do it again. We appreciate all the kind things they have said about Wegmans and respect the good work they do for communities."

The situation is just yet another example of how -- in the social-media era -- marketers are so quick to cave in to customer complaints. Per the company's own admission, less than 50 complaints caused the company to actually pull advertising and rethink its ad strategy. But because hundreds called to complain about the demise of the Baldwin ads, Wegmans caved to customer pressure once again.

It makes you wonder what would happen if now thousands called and tweeted to complain that the ads were being reinstalled. Could this go on forever?

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