This is not your typical Fox News boycott story. MyPillow, one of the cable behemoth’s biggest advertisers, is pulling its ads from the network, not in opposition to anything a Fox News host has said or done, but because the channel won’t air a commercial that promotes the conspiracy claims of its founder.
As Ad Age’s Jeanine Poggi reported Thursday night, Fox News has confirmed that MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell decided to pause his ad spending on the network because it would not let him run a commercial promoting his claims of fraud in the 2020 presidential election—news first reported by The Wall Street Journal.
In the wake of that move, Ad Age is taking a look at advertiser support for the network beyond MyPillow.
MyPillow has been a top 10 Fox News advertiser in 2021, both in terms of TV ad impressions and estimated spend, according to TV ad analytics company iSpot.tv. Impressions measurement is based on iSpot’s use of automated content recognition (ACR) technology; the company conducts real-time, 24/7 monitoring of ad airings on U.S. broadcast and cable networks, and maintains a proprietary ad catalog so it can detect when new ads, and new variations of ads, first appear, and each and every time they appear subsequently. Its ad-detection system is deployed across a footprint of over 15 million opted-in TV devices and then is “balanced against U.S. Census data for geographical and demographical skews,” according to an iSpot methodology statement.
As with most networks, Fox News is its own biggest advertiser: In-network promos for Fox News programming top the ranking of TV ad impressions, and related brands—in this case, streaming service Fox Nation and the Fox TV network—also land in the top 15. Nutritional supplement brands (Balance of Nature, Relief Factor) and insurance companies (Liberty Mutual, USAA, Progressive) make up five of the remaining top 15.
The biggest advertisers on Fox News by TV ad impressions, from Jan. 1 through July 29, 2021, per iSpot:
1. Fox News (8.5 million)
2. Balance of Nature (4.6 million)
3. Liberty Mutual (3.9 million)
4. Fox Nation (3.8 million)
5. NewDay USA (3.7 million)
6. MyPillow (2.3 million)
7. Relief Factor (2.2 million)
8. USAA (2.0 million)
9. Indeed (1.8 million)
10. Nutrisystem (1.6 million)
11. Fox (1.3 million)
12. Progressive (1.3 million)
13. Safelite Auto Glass (1.3 million)
14. Applebee’s (1.0 million)
15. ADT (1.0 million)
From the point of view of estimated spend, iSpot data suggests that MyPillow is the second biggest-spending advertiser year-to-date on Fox News, just behind Balance of Nature. Though MyPillow is No. 6 in terms of ad impressions, iSpot’s tracking shows that MyPillow has been buying proportionately more air time in Fox News’ primetime shows—which of course command higher ad rates—than Balance of Nature and other Fox News advertisers. From Jan. 1 through July 29, MyPillow was the most ubiquitous primetime advertiser on Fox News, per iSpot data, racking up 1.4 million ad impressions during that daypart, with Balance of Nature just behind it at 1.1 million.
Across the TV industry, estimated ad spending typically has a lot of wiggle room by nature. Rate-card prices are often heavily negotiated—particularly for major buyers of ad inventory—and both networks and brands are loath to publicly reveal the specifics of their haggling. There’s no upside for networks to disclose the discounts their best clients may or may not be getting, and brands have no incentive to share the specifics of their media buys with competitors.
At any rate, iSpot says that the ad time MyPillow has bought year-to-date on Fox News has an estimated value of $40 million, while The Wall Street Journal’s report says that MyPillow “has shelled out about $19 million for ad time on the network” year-to-date.
It’s worth noting that back in February 2019, MyPillow’s Lindell told TheWrap’s Jon Levine that he had no plans to stop advertising on Fox News—and specifically Fox News’ “The Ingraham Angle” and “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” both of which were under fire at the time for offensive on-air statements made by their hosts.
“I don’t boycott any station,” Lindell told Levine, adding that he thought boycotts are “the worst thing ever. What it does is advertisers just go to other things, prices go up and the consumer ends up paying for it. It’s absolutely horrific when they do boycotts. I don’t boycott other stations.”