Advertising May Be the Thing That Saves Us From Donald Trump

More Worried About Money Than Common Decency, Squeamish Marketers Will Abandon NBC's "Apprentice" Ship

By Published on .

Thank you again, advertising.

Previously in his space I've offered gratitude for commercializing Christmas, yielding the priceless magic of Santa. But you also serve the society in so many other ways. OK, maybe you contribute to our perverse, soul-deadening obsession with brands. And maybe you slightly hasten the, you know, death of our planet. Maybe. But you've also introduced me to Prilosec, brought me the moon shots, intermittently entertained the living daylights out of me with talking babies et al, and facilitated both bathroom breaks and compulsive snacking.

For that alone I am so grateful. Ever so. But on top of those gifts, you have -- in either your wisdom, judgment or probably just simple cowardice -- ridded me of blight.

Can we talk about Glenn Beck, for a moment ?

It is not surprising that in a nation of 300 million citizens there are two or three million diptards who take his paranoiac ravings seriously; even at the mouth-breathing end of the bell curve, you're still eligible for cable. Likewise, it is in no way remarkable that Fox News Channel would give him the platform. Roger Ailes has long since demonstrated that he will do anything for ratings , especially if in the process Democrats get smeared. For quite a while, Beck was like a gift from God, generating historically huge cable-"news" audiences while simultaneously portraying the president as a tyrant, a socialist and militant American-African. Beck quaked, he cried, he scribbled nonsense on a blackboard. Every day was like a new episode of "The Caine Mutiny" -- except that Captain Queeg was discharged honorably.

Beck, by contrast, is getting the bum's rush. And why?

Advertising. To be more specific, there isn't any.

Halfway into the Beck phenomenon he had become so clearly divorced from reality that, ratings or no ratings , no respectable advertiser would go near him. By the time the interest group ColorofChange staged a boycott (after Beck called President Obama a racist), the show's only revenue came from sleazy gold brokers offering post-apocalyptic security to survivalist kooks.

Not to say advertisers are exactly heroic, but they aren't suicidal, and that basic survival instinct occasionally serves us well. In fact, unless I miss my bet, it is about to serve us all very well.

Can we talk about Donald Trump for a moment?

His imbecilic birther crusade, which he mounted to get traction in his supposed presidential bid, is now triggering calls for a boycott of his hit NBC show "The Celebrity Apprentice." This is a delicious development for a number of reasons, chief among them the near certainty that the whole presidency stunt was staged to generate publicity for the show and the rest of his personal brand. As Trump well understands, he has zero chance of attaining the GOP nomination. While the possibility exists he was simply feeding his pathological neediness for attention, the smart money says it was all about making him an even bigger star/national nuisance -- perhaps to give him greater negotiating leverage with NBC.


NBC is no less ratings -focused than Fox News; that's why "Celebrity Apprentice" even exists. But the struggling network is equally no less sensitive to advertiser pull-out. Here again, this has nothing to do with bravery or righteousness or even common decency. It has to do with money. Thanks to the miracle of advertiser shpilkes, there will soon be less cash coming in. So we will all be able to thank Madison Avenue when its brands' reputation trumps Trump's ratings . Whereupon we call all applaud wildly when NBC calls the Donald to declare:

"You're fired."

Bob Garfield, now a consultant, has reported on advertising, marketing and media for 28 years.
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