The O.J. Lesson: Ad Agencies Should Use Their Clout More Often

Some Thougths About Forgiveness and Offensive Public Figures

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This Thanksgiving weekend, I was thankful for a wonderful, home-cooked meal with family and friends, the Macy's parade, no more political ads on TV, and the fact that OJ Simpson's media farce was cancelled.
Marc Brownstein Marc Brownstein

Airing the Simpson hypothetical confessional would have been a complete sell-out by the Fox network. And Rupert Murdoch finally came to his senses. But I wonder what motivated him to make the decision to pull the plug on the TV show and book. Hmmmm. Let's see. The fact that advertisers boycotted it? (Along with other Fox media properties?!) At least Murdoch's publicist crafted a good quote: "I and senior management agree with the American public that this was an ill-considered project," Mr. Murdoch said in the statement. "We are sorry for any pain this has caused the families of Ron Goldman and Nicole Brown-Simpson."

It's pretty sad when we glorify a figure like O.J. Simpson just to boost ratings. Is Fox that devoid of compelling content that they have to stoop to new lows? But what's reassuring is that the free economy worked: advertisers balked and were heard.

What bothers me even more is that we live in a society that worships celebrities. Publicity-addicted lowlifes like Simpson, Terrill Owens, Mel Gibson and, now, Michael Richards are too often forgiven to easily and celebrated too much. We are a forgiving nation, but I wish we were more selective with our compassion.

In a typical scenario, an actor, athlete or politician will commit an unconscionable act that will offend and enrage millions. Then, they wind up being the top story on the news, front page of the newspaper, and cover story on magazines...which only serves to boost their visibility. Then they are sought out for talk shows, media interviews, gossip columns, and autograph seekers.

Makes me wanna puke.

But as keepers of our advertisers' dollars and advisors to those marketers, we have an ethical and fiduciary duty to wield our own clout. Let's continue to turn off the advertising spigot for these creeps. And as public relations professionals, let's not jump on the pr bandwagon and give theses offensive notables any more visibility than that they've already generated by their regrettable deeds.

For that, I would be truly thankful.
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