Thursday, April 12, 2007

GM pulls ads for Imus

Thursday, April 12, 2007
GM pulls ads for Imus
Show's top '06 sponsor latest to exit over insult
Melissa Preddy / The Detroit News

General Motors Corp. on Wednesday joined the ranks of sponsors pulling ads from the "Imus in the Morning" program following shock jock Don Imus' controversial comments last week about female African-American college athletes.

GM said it will suspend advertising during the Imus show, which originates on WFAN in New York, a CBS Corp. station, and is syndicated nationally. It is also simulcast daily on the MSNBC cable television channel, which announced Wednesday that it will drop its broadcast of the show.

Last year, GM was the top advertising spender at MSNBC overall and during the Imus program, according to TNS Media Intelligence.

"General Motors obviously does not condone the comments Don Imus recently made in reference to the Rutgers University women's basketball team," the automaker said in a statement.

"Mr. Imus has publicly apologized, and admitted his comments were 'completely inappropriate and offensive.' He has also stated his intention to make changes to his show. We acknowledge and welcome these actions. We have decided, however, to suspend our advertising while we continue to monitor the situation."

GM spent an estimated $692,000 buying commercial time during the MSNBC simulcast of the Imus program in 2006, according to TNS. Overall, GM spent $7.95 million with MSNBC. Other top sponsors of Imus include Sprint Nextel Corp., PetMed Express Inc., Verizon Communications Inc. and drug maker GlaxoSmithKline PLC.

Karen Benezra, editor of Brandweek magazine, said GM was tardy in yanking its support of the show.

"Everybody else walked out" Tuesday, she said. "GM stood by an extra day and looks a bit foolish for doing so. As soon as something like this happens most marketers want to fold up their tents."

People speaking for Ford Motor Co. and DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler Group said their companies don't advertise during Imus' show, though some of their dealers may independently buy spots in their local markets.

The controversy began April 4, when Imus bantered on the air with producer and sidekick Bernard McGuirk about the Rutgers University women's basketball team, which had lost an NCAA Championship game the night before. McGuirk referred to the women as "hos" and Imus responded by calling the athletes "nappy-headed hos."

The following day, Imus issued a brief apology, but reaction continued throughout the weekend.

On Monday, a visibly shaken Imus offered a longer on-air mea culpa, describing himself as a "good person" who "said a bad thing." That failed to mollify many critics, who pointed to past similarly racist and misogynistic remarks from Imus and his staff.

CBS planned to punish Imus by suspending his program for two weeks starting Monday.

GM said it will continue to support Imus' charitable efforts, which include work with children with cancer or autism. GM spokeswoman Ryndee S. Carney said GM has donated vehicles for use at the Imus Ranch, a nearly 4,000-acre cattle station in New Mexico that offers children a "cowboy experience."

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