Advertising Exodus From 'O'Reilly Factor' Continues

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Credit: Fox News

Fox News' "The O'Reilly Factor" is facing a growing backlash from marketers pulling their ads from the cable news show in response to sexual harassment allegations involving host Bill O'Reilly.

Ad Age this afternoon confirmed the exit of one of the show's largest advertisers in recent weeks -- men's shirt maker Untuckit. The brand was among the top five ad spenders on the show in the past 30 days, according to iSpot. "As a company in which more than 2/3rd of our employees are women, we take sexual harassment claims very seriously," Untuckit CEO and co-founder Aaron Sanandres said in a statement. "Moreover, it is important our corporate partners reflect the same principles of inclusivity and equality upon which we have built our brand. In light of the disturbing allegations, we instructed our media buyer this morning to reallocate our ad dollars to other shows effective immediately. We will continue to closely monitor the situation but believe this is the right decision at this time."

"The O'Reilly Factor" also has relied on auto spenders to a significant degree of late, but at least five brands have confirmed they have halted spending plans as of Tuesday afternoon, including BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Hyundai, Lexus and Mitsubishi Motors.

Other defections include GlaxoSmithKline; Allstate; Constant Contact; and Sanofi Consumer HealthCare, according to a report in The New York Times.

The Times on Saturday reported that five women had received payments totaling about $13 million from either Mr. O'Reilly or Fox News parent 21st Century Fox in exchange for not pursuing litigation about their accusations.

The top-spending brand on the show last year was precious metals marketer Rosland Capital, according to Kantar Media. The company, whose products include gold, declined to comment when asked about its ad spending plans.

"We value our partners and are working with them to address their current concerns about the 'O'Reilly Factor.' At this time, the ad buys of those clients have been re-expressed into other [Fox News] programs," Paul Rittenberg, executive-VP for ad sales at Fox News, said in a statement. (Mr. Rittenberg is scheduled to depart Fox News on April 28, Ad Age reported in February.)

"We had advertising running on 'The O'Reilly Factor' (we run on most major cable news shows) and it has been reassigned in the midst of this controversy," Donna Boland, a spokeswoman for Mercedes-Benz USA, said in a statement on Monday. "The allegations are disturbing and, given the importance of women in every aspect of our business, we don't feel this is a good environment in which to advertise our products right now."

Hyundai in its statement said: "Hyundai currently has no advertising running on 'The O'Reilly Factor.' We had upcoming advertising spots on the show but are reallocating them due to the recent and disturbing allegations. As a company, we seek to partner with companies and programming that share our values of inclusion and diversity. We will continue to monitor and evaluate the situation as we plan future advertising decisions."

Mitsubishi -- which spent the second most in the auto category behind Mercedes in the past 30 days, according to iSpot -- stated that it "takes these allegations very seriously and we have decided that we will pull our advertising at the present time. We will continue to monitor this situation as we assess our long-term strategy." Lexus in a statement issued Tuesday afternoon said it has "asked our media-buying partners to move all Lexus ad inventory out of the program."

CNN, a Fox News competitor, first reported on Monday that Mercedes-Benz was pulling its ads from the top-rated cable news show. CNN reported that it had "reached out to more than 20 companies and brands that have advertised on 'The O'Reilly Factor' to ask for a response to the Times' report and whether they were reconsidering their affiliation with the program in light of it."

A Chevrolet spokeswoman confirmed in an email to Ad Age that it "had a very limited advertising buy on Fox News in the first quarter of 2017," adding that "we have no immediate plans to advertise on Fox News on a national level." Asked if the national decision was related to the allegations, she said: "No, we regularly adjust our media buying based on our business needs and did not have anything planned beyond Q1 on Fox News."

The Times report stated that the allegations against Mr. O'Reilly involved women who worked for him or had appeared on his show. "They have complained about a wide range of behavior, including verbal abuse, lewd comments, unwanted advances and phone calls in which it sounded as if Mr. O'Reilly was masturbating, according to documents and interviews," the Times reported.

It is not surprising that three big auto brands have taken a public stance, considering car-buying patterns. Half of all car purchases are by women and roughly 80% of all car purchases are influenced by women, said Michelle Krebs, a senior analyst for AutoTrader. She also speculated that the quick action by auto brands could be related to the fact that women are "moving up the corporate ladder to decision-making positions at auto companies but that isn't true across the board." BMW's U.S. marketing is led by a woman -- Trudy Hardy, VP-marketing at BMW North America.

Contributing: Jeanine Poggi

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