Advertisers Take Wait-and-See Approach to Imus

GM and Other Big Names Want to Evaluate the New Show Before Committing

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Who's ready to take a chance on Don Imus again? ABC Radio and Rural Media Group's RFD-TV will put him back on the air Dec. 3, but most advertisers are holding back for now, even those who've been Imus supporters in the past.
Don Imus
Don Imus Credit: Reuters/Chip East

Mr. Imus' show has had a "proceed with caution" sign on it since Procter & Gamble backed out of MSNBC's simulcast of CBS Radio's "Imus in the Morning" in April following racially charged remarks Mr. Imus made regarding members of the Rutgers University women's basketball team.

Steve Boerneman, president-general manager of WABC in New York, said "Imus" will premiere with "advertisers who are strong Imus supporters and ... stayed with him throughout the controversy." Ad Age contacted several national advertisers that bought his former show, and several seem to be taking a wait-and-see approach before committing to Imus 2.0.

In neutral gear
General Motors, a longtime sponsor of Mr. Imus, said it will evaluate the new show's format, content and audience before returning as an advertiser, "just like we would with any other media buy," a company spokeswoman said. Other carmakers avoided the show even before Mr. Imus' controversial remarks.

Verizon, a previous sponsor of Mr. Imus and one of the top spenders on the show's home station said it has no plans to advertise on the program. Other major WABC spenders, Wyeth Pharmaceuticals and Home Depot, could not confirm whether they would be buying the show.

Estimates of Imus' previous show's worth -- carried by 61 stations outside New York -- ranged from $15 million to $22 million annually for home station WFAN-AM in New York.

Major radio buyers have received lukewarm responses from their clients. "I don't know if any of my advertisers have come to me saying, 'We want to be involved,'" said Matthew Warnecke, VP-local and national radio for MediaCom. "It's another outlet for our clients' units, and we'll plan when it's appropriate."
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