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Imus Deserves the Backlash He Got

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I had another post ready to go, but all of my good friends asked me to make a post on Don Imus. Why? Those of you that know me for a while, know that I've been a huge supporter of The Rutgers Women's Basketball Team since about 1986 or so.

Back in my college days, the men's basketball team was absolutely putrid so the only good basketball to watch was Theresa's Grentz's Lady Knights basketball team (yes - they were called the Lady Knights back then). The Lady Knights were so popular that they played after the men so it boosted the men's basketball attendance.
My college roommates and I sat behind the band, painted our faces, and raised the noise level several decibels at the RAC. We went on road trips with the team, spent a few nights partying with them (one was a late night pizza party at Pattie's partially funded by my friend Sam N who graduated a semester early and had cash to burn), and generally hung out with them when we could. So, needless to say, we still follow them to this day.
When I first heard about the racially charged comments by Don Imus, my first reaction was - that guy is still alive?
My second reaction was, this guy is a clueless jerk. Why on earth would he degrade these college students, especially after they had such a great run through the NCAAs? At the beginning of the year they looked like they were in for a rough season. (Like the Yankees, we RU women's BBall fans are accustomed to winning). That was rude, uncalled for, and degrading.
And, like most people I heard or read about it a week later. You know why that is? I know ABSOLUTELY nobody that listens to his drivel. Not one person. Not one person in the past 15 years that listens to his garbage. My parents? No. Friends? No. And don't forget my friends are now unfortunately in the coveted 30+ age group with money demographic. I commuted for 5 years to Jersey City during prime drive time and none of my fellow commuters ever mentioned him.
Howard Stern? Yes. Opie and Anthony? Outrageous and disgusting, but yes. Mike and Mike in the Morning. Sure - I have them on my first position. WDHA for rock music and then of course the AM static news channels of WINS, CBS, and Bloomberg. WFAN in the morning? Never. WFAN in the PM, sure if you can stand the static you have Mike and The Mad Dog.
Imus? Seriously, I thought he passed away. That's why I was shocked to see he had advertisers and according to a NY Times article he generates $50 million in revenue each year when you include MSNBC. Also as you probably know, there are several advertisers bailing on him now, which calls into question what were people doing advertising with him in the first place?
CSFB Direct used to advertise with him and thankfully we canceled it years ago due to lack of traffic and results. However, who is listening to him now? His ratings in the DC area are anemic and as far as I can tell in the NYC area he gets like a 2, which is pathetic.
Can he recover? Sure, but I'm not sure why. Was this a stunt to re-position himself to hate-mongering folks? Who knows. I'd say stop listening to him if I could find anyone I know that still tunes him in.
Maybe this will get advertisers to re-look at their sponsorships and figure out why they were there in the first place. Picking on college students in their moment of glory for what he believes are professional gains is wrong. Does he have freedom of speech? Sure, but that has to do with being arrested by the Government, not having advertisers and listeners send him to media purgatory which is where I thought he was in the first place.

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Eric Frenchman is an online marketing and advertising consultant located in the Great State of New Jersey and Chief Internet Strategist for the online political agency Connell Donatelli Inc. Since 1998, Eric has managed multi-million dollar online advertising and CRM campaigns for AT&T, DLJdirect, Harrisdirect, and BMO Investorline and is a recognized expert in online marketing and advertising techniques. In 2005, Harrisdirect was ranked as the 17th largest online advertiser in the US and in 2003 was recognized as Best Financial Advertiser. Eric Frenchman's marketing blog is located here:

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  • by Cam Beck Fri Apr 13, 2007 via blog

    Freedom works both ways... He can say what he wants (short of subversion), and we can tune him out or pull our advertising. I won't deny the hypocrisy that is being displayed by some quarters in this mess, but the issues you address here are completely valid. But even if he had a large audience, and on the basis of that audience pulled in tons of advertising revenue, the right thing to do still would have been to pull the ads, IMO.

  • by Bob Glaza Fri Apr 13, 2007 via blog

    Thrilled to see you speaking out, Eric - Thank you. I searched yesterday for blogs on the Imus story - there were not too many. I hope the story doesn't die. If it reminds advertisers to take a long hard look at where the $$$ go and broadcasters to pay a little more attention...that would be the right thing!

  • by Eric Frenchman Fri Apr 13, 2007 via blog

    Cam and Bob, Thanks for the comments. BTW - the person with the painted face in the picture above is me circa 1989. Eric

  • by B.L. Ochman Fri Apr 13, 2007 via blog

    i wonder whether Imus' advertisers had actually listened to his show. There was nothing new in his hate-speak about the Rutgers team. He's been talking trash for a long time. Nonetheless, he'll have a hit paid podcast show any day now, or a satellite show like Howard Stern where he can say anything he wants. There is a double standard here though. Anyone remember Jesse Jackson's "Hymie Town" remark, or Rev. Sharpton and Tawanda Brawley? And now these two are the leaders against Imus. Of course that anti-semitic slur and that totally bizarro incident with Brawley cost Jackson and Sharpton their shot at the presidency. I guess it's progress, of some sort, that now they talk about morality and sensitivity.

  • by David Reich Fri Apr 13, 2007 via blog

    I wasn't going to write on this subject, but I guess I can't keep my big mouth shut. I've never been a fan of Imus. I think what he said was stupid and insensitive. Should he be taken off the air for it? I'm not sure. Al Sharpton and Rev. Jackson, two opportunists who have done much good for race relations while also doing some harm, as BL noted above, made such an issue that NBC and CBS had little choice but to fire Imus. If the two Revs. hadn't raised such a ruckus, the nets could have let the marketplace work it out. People who don't like Imus' comments on blacks, Jews or gays can very easily turn the dial. And advertisers who would rather not be associated with him can also easily opt out. But there seem to be a few double standards here. Look at the content of many prime time TV shows that the big advertisers buy time on -- blatant sexual situations and poor character role models abound. OK, the nets are finally sensitive to issues of race, religious and gender bias -- that's a big start. This points to a larger societal problem that some leaders in the black community are trying to deal with -- the lack of respect in how many young black people address each other, using words my mother would still wash my mouth with soap if I were to say them. So perhaps Imus was trying to be cool or hip, by using a phrase all too commonly heard within the black community. The real problem is not with Don Imus, I'm afraid.

  • by Stephen Denny Fri Apr 13, 2007 via blog

    Eric: I couldn't possibly disagree more. Have you ever listened to his radio show? This isn't Howard Stern or Michael Savage. Imus is a smart guy with a caustic sense of humor who isn't a raving left or right winger. He asks intelligent questions and lets people speak. He's very active in charity work for sick children and doesn't wear it on his sleeve as most "Hollywood" types do. He isn't a racist by anyone's definition, his comments notwithstanding. He's been more upfront about taking responsibility than I would have expected. He has apologized, face to face. The context was far from being a racist rant. What he said was, no pun intended, off-color, as he readily admitted -- even before the show was over. The backlash merely shows how politically correct the US is. How "Brawley" Sharpton and "Hymietown" Jackson can lecture anyone on moral grounds baffles me. It only proves that there is no common sense (or backbone) left in the American media. Imus will be back and hopefully there will be hell to pay when he does.

  • by Damon Billian Fri Apr 13, 2007 via blog

    I do agree that his comments were insensitive & showed poor judgment on his part. However, I still think we have a lot of work to do as a society that it isn't acceptable for any group to use derogatory language towards another group. And while I am not a conservative by any stretch, some conservative folks (Michelle Malkin and Ann Coulter, for example) have pointed out the contradiction(s) with the current discussions surrounding derogatory comments (in other words, it depends on *who* is saying it & not *what* is being said). Should he have been fired? That decision had to be made by the employer & they chose what they thought was right for their organization. Note: I am not a fan of his show & never listened to it.

  • by peter Fri Apr 13, 2007 via blog

    Kudos for speaking out. I was disgusted by his comments. When are these kinds of people going to understand that even if "they are just trying to be funny" that it is at the expense of people who might be deeply offended? Concerning free speech: sure, say whatever you want in America. But welcome to the business world, where the almight dollar rules, not your right to free speech. And guess what? People with feelings, who have the ability to be offended, are writing the checks. It is not only incredibly insensitive to make comments like this bonehead did.. it is also very bad business for other stakeholders. As for me, I would have advised ANYONE to cut all ties to Imus in a heartbeat unless they want the backlash from hell. That's not just good old fashioned ethics and sympathy toward these amazing women -- it's also just smart business. I guarantee there is no one calling Imus these days about endorsements.

  • by Eric Frenchman Mon Apr 16, 2007 via blog

    Wow great comments. I won't be able to comment on them individually... With regards to the Sharpton/Jackson comments, I actually do agree that they're motives are questionable at best, except when you consider they are probably doing it for ad dollars!!! Speaking of ad dollars, this is what his firing was about. Advertisers get sick of the commentary, cancel big ad dollars, and Imus loses his support. In the NY and DC areas (areas important to me), his ratings were anemic and perhaps these advertisers were looking for a way to cancel their deal. Remember, Freedom of Speech as guaranteed by the Constitution has to do with being harassed by the Government not by advertisers! PardonMyFrench, Eric

  • by Stephen Denny Mon Apr 16, 2007 via blog

    Eric: I'd wager that the advertisers pulled out because they were threatened with "community action" by the same people who fanned these flames to begin with; we're all very gun shy, for good reason, especially when racial overtones are present. This is more a case study of "super empowered individuals" -- meaning Sharpton and Jackson -- threatening unspecified actiosn against advertisers than any backlash against Imus from P&G. I could be wrong, but I doubt it. Thanks --

  • by David Reich Mon Apr 16, 2007 via blog

    I agree with Stephen. Advertisers and the nets both pulled out more because they feared being hit by community backlash. If an advertiser is unhappy with anemic ratings, believe me, they won't wait for a situation like this to take their dollars away.

  • by Carol Doms Tue Apr 17, 2007 via blog

    I have been finding this "media circus" interesting, in a bizarre and twisted way. I will admit I do not listen to Don Imus either. Freedom of speech and my freedom to choose what I listen to. One of the many articles/editorials I read on this issue, described Imus as "deer caught in the headlights" look. Is it any wonder? He has been paid quite well for many years to speak his mind in any form or fashion. Because he has been given free reign in this area, he probably doesn't have a clue what is acceptable and what is not anymore. However, we as a society haven't helped in that area either. We often (not always) pander to the lowest common denominator and 'line of decency' is a moving target.

  • by Phil Fri Apr 20, 2007 via blog

    Eric: After reading your post I have determined that there is a definite racial undertone to it - against caucasians! Therefore, I feel that you should be fired - that is to say, your blog should be pulled and you should no longer have the right to say anything. Is that okay with you? Hmm... that's what I thought....

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