Breitbart v. Kellogg’s, and more
“[N]o one deserves to be subjected to targeted abuse online, and our rules prohibit inciting or engaging in the targeted abuse or harassment of others.”
Jack Dorsey, CEO, Twitter, on banning Milo
Last month PewDiePie, YouTube’s most-subscribed channel with more than 53 million followers, posted several videos detailing a stunt in which he paid two shirtless Indian men to make a video holding up a sign that said “Death to All Jews.” He also paid a guy dressed as Jesus Christ to say, “Hitler did absolutely nothing wrong.”
PewDiePie, whose actual name is Felix Kjellberg, has insisted that his point was to critique of the absurdity of an internet service (in this case, he used Tel Aviv-based Fiverr) that enables someone to say or do something so outrageous for just $5. More than a month later, Maker and YouTube now have decided that he was out of bounds.
In a statement early Tuesday, a YouTube spokesperson said, “We’ve decided to cancel the release of ‘Scare PewDiePie’ season 2 and we’re removing the PewDiePie channel from Google Preferred.” Google Preferred is the internet giant’s advertising program for selling popular “brand-safe content” on YouTube.
Where it all started: HuffPost published “Breitbart’s Greatest Hits,” November 14
Breitbart’s Greatest Hit (Pieces): Some Of The Website’s Most Disgusting Headlines; A taste of what we’re in for, by Willa Frej, Huffington Post, November 14, 2016.
Ultra-conservative website Breitbart’s stock just went up ― its executive chairman, Steve Bannon, is about to influence our next president on major policy decisions. Bannon, 62, will be chief strategist and senior counselor to Donald Trump, the president-elect announced Sunday. He served previously as the CEO of the Trump campaign. Breitbart thrives off of misogynist and racist conspiracy theories. Here is a taste: [Follow link for screencaps]
The reaction: Advertisers and exchanges began severing contracts with Breitbart on November 23
Breitbart news site blocked by ad exchange, by Leo Kelion, BBC.com (UK), November 23, 2016.
AppNexus said it would no longer allow Breitbart to sell ad space via its platform, after determining that the site had broken its code on hate speech and incitement to violence.
Breitbart responded saying it “has always and continues to condemn racism and bigotry in any form”. AppNexus has not given examples.
But a spokesman said a “human audit” of Breitbart had flagged several articles that had caused it concern because of the language they had featured.
Note: In July 2015, AppNexus entered into a ten-year partnership with AOL, HuffPost’s parent company, and Microsoft, in which AOL will become the exclusive seller of display ad spaces:
Microsoft Announces New Levels Of Partnership With AOL And AppNexus, by Bri Saxman, PPCHero.com, July 3, 2015.
Bing will now power search and search advertising across AOL. This 10-year agreement will enable AOL users to have access to search powered by Bing across the company’s sites. Now with 20% organic market share in the U.S., Bing continues to grow organically as well as through key partnerships like the one with AOL. In addition to the search partnership, AOL will become the seller of all display formats, including mobile and video, for the Microsoft portfolio across nine markets around the world.:
November 29: Kellogg’s and other major advertisers begin severing contracts with Breitbart
Kellogg Pulls Ads From Breitbart Amid Hate-Speech Concerns, by Craig Giammona and Gerry Smith, Bloomberg,
November 29, 2016.
* Retreat follows similar moves from Allstate, Warby Parker
* Criticism of site has grown since chairman joined Trump staff
Kellogg Co. is pulling its ads from the website Breitbart News, the right-wing news organization whose former chairman Steve Bannon was tapped as a top adviser to President-elect Donald Trump.
Brands that advertise on Breitbart have drawn flak in recent weeks, with activists saying the website espouses racist and anti-Semitic views. A screen shot showing an advertisement for Kellogg’s Frosted Mini Wheats was part of an online campaign to get marketers to abandon the site.
“We regularly work with our media-buying partners to ensure our ads do not appear on sites that aren’t aligned with our values as a company,” said Kris Charles, a spokeswoman for Kellogg, which also makes Frosted Flakes and Special K cereal. “We recently reviewed the list of sites where our ads can be placed and decided to discontinue advertising on Breitbart.com. We are working to remove our ads from that site.”
Kellogg decided to “blacklist” Breitbart from the websites where its products appear after being contacted by customers who saw ads for Frosted Flakes and Frosted Mini Wheats, according to Charles.
AppNexus Inc., one of the biggest digital advertising services, barred Breitbart from using its ad-serving tools earlier this month because it felt the publisher violated its hate-speech rules.
AppNexus scrutinized Breitbart’s website after Bannon was given the White House post. The digital ad firm decided the publication had breached a policy against content that incites violence, according to a spokesman for the company. Kellogg declined to name the third-party company that places its digital ads.
Kellogg is the latest major brand to pull its online advertising from the news site. Other companies — including Allstate, Nest, EarthLink, Warby Parker and SoFi — have also blacklisted Breitbart from showing their ads, according to Digiday.
A spokeswoman for Breitbart didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. Breitbart News Network Chief Executive Officer Larry Solov said in an e-mailed statement to Bloomberg earlier this month that Breitbart “has always and continues to condemn racism and bigotry in any form.”
The site had 19.2 million unique monthly U.S. visitors in October, up from 12.9 million a year ago, according to ComScore Inc. Breitbart doesn’t rely on subscriptions, suggesting that advertising is a major source of revenue.
Breitbart has been widely criticized for incendiary articles, such as one that warns of “Muslim invaders” and another that dubs conservative thinker Bill Kristol a “Renegade Jew.” One headline offered this fix for online harassment: “Women should log off.” The site’s profile has risen since Trump tapped Bannon to be White House chief strategist earlier this month.
Not all brands are shying away from advertising on Breitbart, though. After a screenshot showed a Nissan ad on the website, the automaker said in a statement that it “places ads in a variety of sites in order to reach as many consumers as possible.”
“The placement of Nissan advertising is not intended to be a political commentary and there are no plans to change the advertising mix at this time,” the company said.
Kellogg Is Latest Company To Pull Advertising From Breitbart; The food company joins Warby Parker, Allstate and others in severing relations with the conservative outlet, by Lydia O’Connor, Huffington Post, November 29, 2016.
Kellogg is pulling advertisements from Breitbart, a website that traffics in racist, sexist and anti-Semitic content. A Kellogg spokesman told The Huffington Post that consumers alerted the food company to its ads on Breitbart.
“We regularly work with our media buying partners to ensure our ads do not appear on sites that aren’t aligned with our values as company,” Kellogg spokesman Kris Charles said. “This involves reviewing websites where ads could potentially be placed using filtering technology to assess site content. As you can imagine, there is a very large volume of websites, so occasionally something is inadvertently missed.”
Breitbart did not immediately return a request for comment. Its executive chairman, Steve Bannon, has been named chief strategist and senior counselor to President-elect Donald Trump.
Kellogg is only the latest company to sever relations with Breitbart, whose incendiary headlines include “Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive And Crazy” and “Bill Kristol: Republican Spoiler, Renegade Jew.” Last week, the massive ad distributor AppNexus deactivated Breitbart’s access to its advertising tools. Other companies to pull advertising from the site include Allstate, Nest, EarthLink, Warby Parker and SoFi, Bloomberg reported.
UPDATE: Nov. 30 ― Breitbart launched a #DumpKelloggs counter-campaign Wednesday afternoon in response to the company removing advertising from the site.
In an article published on the site, Breitbart editor-in-chief Alexander Marlow encouraged readers to boycott Kellogg products and described the decision to pull advertising as a “spit in the face” of readers:
Brietbart’s reaction: Wage jihad against Kellogg’s, November 30
#DumpKelloggs: Breakfast Brand Blacklists Breitbart, Declares Hate for 45,000,000 Readers, by Breitbart News, November 30, 2016.
Kellogg Co. announced on Tuesday its decision to pull ads from conservative media giant Breitbart.com because its 45,000,000 monthly conservative readers are not “aligned with our values as a company.” In response, Breitbart News, one of the world’s top news publishers, has launched a #DumpKelloggs petition and called for a boycott of the ubiquitous food manufacturer.
The decision by Kellogg’s, which makes Pringles, Eggo waffles, as well as Special K and Frosted Flakes cereals, among others, will make virtually no revenue impact on Breitbart.com. It does, however, represent an escalation in the war by leftist companies like Target and Allstate against conservative customers whose values propelled Donald Trump into the White House.
“We regularly work with our media-buying partners to ensure our ads do not appear on sites that aren’t aligned with our values as a company,” said Kellogg’s flak Kris Charles. “We recently reviewed the list of sites where our ads can be placed and decided to discontinue advertising on Breitbart.com. We are working to remove ads from that site.”
Kellogg’s offered no examples of how Breitbart’s 45 million monthly readers fail to align with the breakfast maker’s values. Indeed, the move appears to be one more example of an out-of-touch corporation embracing false left-wing narratives used to cynically smear the hard working Americans that populate this nation’s heartland.
Breitbart News Editor-in-Chief Alexander Marlow encouraged the boycott of Kellogg’s products, describing their war against Breitbart News as bigoted and anti-American: “Breitbart News is the largest platform for pro-family content anywhere on the Internet. We are fearless advocates for traditional American values, perhaps most important among them is freedom of speech, or our motto ‘more voices, not less.’ For Kellogg’s, an American brand, to blacklist Breitbart News in order to placate left-wing totalitarians is a disgraceful act of cowardice. They insult our incredibly diverse staff and spit in the face of our 45,000,000 highly engaged, highly perceptive, highly loyal readers, many of whom are Kellogg’s customers. Boycotting Breitbart News for presenting mainstream American ideas is an act of discrimination and intense prejudice. If you serve Kellogg’s products to your family, you are serving up bigotry at your breakfast table.”
In response, Breitbart launched its #DumpKelloggs petition to encourage its vast readership and the followers of its #1 in the world political Facebook and Twitter pages to ban bigotry from the breakfast table by boycotting Kellogg’s products.
“Kellogg’s has shown its contempt for Breitbart’s 45 million readers and for the main street American values that they hold dear,” said Breitbart President and CEO, Larry Solov. “Pulling its advertising from Breitbart News is a decidedly cynical and un-American act. The only sensible response is to join together and boycott Kellogg’s products in protest.”
Kellogg Foundation Supports Group Headed by Cop-Killer-Loving Black Lives Matter Founder, by Lee Stranahan, Breitbart, December 15, 2016.
#DumpKelloggs: What Do Fidel Castro, Black Lives Matter, and George Soros Have to Do with Breakfast?, by Jerome Hudson, Breitbart.com, December 6, 2016.
AdWeek: #DumpKelloggs Boycott Has Blown a Lasting Hole in Kellogg’s on Social Media, by Jerome Hudson, Breitbart.com, December 13, 2016.
Adweek reports that Kellogg’s decision to pull its advertising from Breitbart News inflicted massive, longterm damage to the cereal company’s brand online.
Citing data from Taykey, a social media analytics firm, Adweek notes that “while negative sentiment for New Balance and Pepsi has died down over the past month, Kellogg’s is facing a more sustained backlash after pulling its advertising” from Breitbart News.
“On the heels of the ad ban, Breitbart launched a campaign, #DumpKelloggs, encouraging Trump supporters to boycott Kellogg’s products,” Adweek notes. “The boycott caused Kellogg’s social media sentiment to fall dramatically, with a 75 percent nosedive, according to Taykey.”
“Through Dec. 5, that sentiment had stayed mostly negative,” the outlet reports.
Adweek’s assessment of Breitbart’s mega-viral #DumpKelloggs petition initiative is similar to the one published by the Wall Street Journal.
“There’s a cereal killer on the loose,” the Journal reported last week, acknowledging that since Breitbart’s boycott campaign against the cereal giant, “Kellogg shares have underperformed peers General Mills and Post Holdings by 4.4 and 11.5 points, respectively.”
The massive drop in Kellogg’s shares and the deep negative nosedive in its brand’s perception online come on the heels of the cereal maker’s politically-driven attack on Breitbart News and its 45 million monthly readers. Kellogg’s being accused of alleged racism toward factory workers and profiting from the use of child labor also hasn’t helped their brand.
The left-wing campaign to coerce companies to pull their ads from Breitbart News has had “little to no impact” on the organization, Breitbart Editor-in-Chief Alex Marlow says.
“We’ve had a hundred or so companies approach us in the past few days and say they want to advertise with us specifically because they do share our values,” Mr. Marlow said.
Sign the #DumpKelloggs boycott petition here.
WSJ’s take: Sympathy for Breitbart, but overblows impact on Kellogg’s; cites quarterly data that shows stock value decline, but long before Breitbart’s jihad began
Politics and Business Don’t Mix in Trump’s America; Companies and executives used to be able to air their political views—not any more, by Spencer Jakab, Wall St. Journal, December 9, 2016.
There’s a cereal killer on the loose.
Until recently it wasn’t necessarily a bad thing for a company to wear its political leanings on its sleeve. For example, executives at Costco and Starbucks arguably scored points with customers in recent years while openly supporting progressive causes. Privately held Hobby Lobby and Chick-fil-A have had great success even as their bosses have been outspoken conservatives.
But the recent backlash against Kellogg and other companies shows that political stances can come with costs. After the cereal maker joined other companies in pulling advertising from controversial right-wing website Breitbart over hate speech, the outlet launched a #DumpKelloggs campaign and wrote articles critical of the company.
There were similar calls by Donald Trump supporters to boycott Pepsi. Its chief executive, Indra Nooyi, made remarks about disrespectful talk toward women that some interpreted as critical of the president-elect. The flames were fanned by false reports that Ms. Nooyi told Trump supporters to take their business elsewhere. And department store Macy’s, which pulled Donald Trump branded merchandise in 2015 in an explicit protest against prejudice, has come under intermittent attack from Mr. Trump or his supporters.
One way to assess the damage to companies’ bottom lines is their stock prices since Mr. Trump’s surprise victory. Macy’s, for example, has lagged behind peer J.C. Penney by 16.5 percentage points and Kohl’s by 21.4 percentage points in the ensuing month. Kellogg shares have underperformed peers General Mills and Post Holdings by 4.4 and 11.5 points, respectively. Pepsi trailed Coca-Cola and Dr Pepper Snapple Group by a more modest 16 and 5 percentage points, respectively.
As American society becomes more divided it is becoming more dangerous to mix business and politics.
Critical analysis by John Ziegler, a friend of Andrew Breitbart’s, at MediaIte
The Breitbart/Kellogg’s Flap Exposes the Death of Conservatism and Journalism, by John Ziegler, MediaIte, December 1st, 2016.
Yesterday, Twitter was dominated by two hashtags related to a sponsorship fight which suddenly broke out between “conservative” pro-Trump website Breitbart.com, and cereal giant Kellogg’s. #DumpKelloggs was the product of an effort by Breitbart.com to get their supporters to boycott Kellogg’s because the company had announced they would no longer be advertising on the website because of a lack of respect for their “values.” That sparked #BreitbartCereals as mostly liberals mocked the website’s attempt at retaliation via a petition.
All of this is clearly based in Breitbart.com taking a page out of their Messiah Donald Trump’s playbook. By fiercely attacking anyone who offends them, they are able to energize their base of support while claiming victimhood. They even went so far as to call Kellogg’s “Un-American” for dropping them as an outlet for advertising.
Sadly, it is very obvious that Breitbart.com, thanks to becoming a propaganda outlet for liberal conman Donald Trump, has now not only forgotten the definition of conservatism, but also is very confused about what it means to be “Un-American.” The reality is that in a free-market system there is nothing remotely “Un-American” about a company deciding that it is no longer in their self-interest to advertise on a media source.
Similarly, there is also nothing necessarily “wrong” with Breitbart.com trying to punish those who express their freedom of expression by no longer advertising with them. Just as Breitbart.com is not remotely entitled to have a company advertise with them, they are also allowed to have their backers stop their purchases as a form of economic retaliation.
However, the real problem here is that this boycott effort, while it may create some short-term pain for Kellogg’s, is very likely to create a long-term issue for Breibtart.com gaining future advertisers. Now that they have created the precedent of retaliating against those who pull advertising away from Breitbart.com in the era of Trump as president, why in the world would major sponsors ever join them in the future? Effectively, what Breitbart.com is telling the rest of the corporate world is: “This is likely going to end very badly for you, so why would you even bother to deal with us when there are so many other options for you to advertise?”
An ever larger issue is that not long ago, news organizations would never have considered so overtly calling for a boycott of a former advertiser. To simply do so because a cooperation no longer thought that it was valuable enough to appeal to a demographic which might end up causing them more trouble than it is worth would have been rightly unheard of. In fact, there used to be a “firewall” between advertising and news content in which news outlets would never dream of publicly attacking a corporation if they simply stopped giving them money in order to publicize their products.
Unfortunately, those days are now long gone. We currently live in an era where it is becoming increasingly impossible to separate “news” content from advertising income. Journalism cannot simply exist when most business models, even among major media outlets, are now so incredibly fragile that popularity dictates content rather than what is important or truthful. I strongly believe that once “journalism” becomes simply a business (as it has almost universally in this highly fragmented modern era) that such a relationship is completely incompatible with objective and meaningful new reporting.
Breitbart.com is hardly the only “news” organization which now acts the same way as an entertainment association which dictates all content based on what kind of advertising revenue might be created, or, at the very least, not threatened. But because they are pretending to be a source “conservative” news, it is especially hypocritical for them to fundamentally alter, or at least dramatically threaten, the separation between “journalism” and an overt business.
Further proof that Breitbart.com is now longer “conservative,” and doesn’t understand or respect the free market, is that they have simultaneously posted numerous articles praising President-elect Trump for supposedly salvaging 1,000 jobs in Indiana. They have consistently touted a deal cut with Carrier to stop a planned move to Mexico, which was negotiated by Trump and his Vice President-elect (and current Indiana governor) Mike Pence.
However, it is clear that all that really happened was Trump used the very same very liberal tactic once used by President Obama to choose which companies would be “winners and losers” by offering them government incentives in exchange for a publicity stunt. This not only creates an incredibly dangerous precedent for other American companies to threaten to take jobs elsewhere, but it is also hypocritical for a supposedly “conservative” outlet to praise Trump for exactly the same kind of ploy for which it once criticized Obama.
So we now have Breitbart.com claiming to be a premiere source for “conservative” news while also praising liberal policies to use tax money to manipulate a very small number of jobs for political gain, expecting corporations to keep advertising with them regardless of their political stance, and actively boycotting a company (while calling them “Un-American”) for having simply expressed their right to stop such advertising. None of that is remotely conservative and, in my opinion, none of it would have been approved of by Breitbart.com founder (and a former close friend of mine), the late Andrew Breitbart.
All of this shows that in the era of Trump all principle is lost in favor of the cult of personality. The irony of course is that the difference between Obama, who Breitbart.com criticized enormously, and Trump, who to them can do almost nothing wrong, is, in many ways, minuscule at best.
A Twitter user on the #DumpKelloggs thread points out an inconvenient truth
JoeMyGod Verified account @JoeMyGod Dec 16
Two weeks after Breitbart launched its #DumpKelloggs boycott, Kellogg’s stock is actually up.
My own analysis of Kellogg’s stock price: Breitbart boycott may have triggered a stock value rebound
Which caused me to look up Kellogg’s three-month stock fluctuations, which showed a momentary — continued — drop, then a strong rebound. Note that the boycott began on November 30:
December 1 and beyond:
Breitbart digs in, conflates Kellogg’s credit downgrade as being influenced in some way by its boycott
Kellogg Credit Rating Downgraded Amid Loss of Youth Market, by Warner Todd Huston, Breitbart.com, December 12, 2016.
Citing a loss of market, Credit Suisse has lowered its rating for shares of cereal giant Kellogg from outperform to neutral. The bank insists that Kellogg’s has lost the youth market severely crimping profits.
Once a staple of every American child’s breakfast, cereal is apparently now on the outs with consumers, especially millennials, and the waning interest in cereal products is impacting Kellogg heavily.
“We are downgrading Kellogg stock, … the company’s revenue growth rate continued to under-punch its peers due to ongoing pressure in the breakfast cereal category,” CNBC reported on Monday.
Analyst Robert Moskow added that thus far Kellogg’s efforts to re-tool advertising and products to appeal to today’s youth have not worked
“The company took several positive steps to re-engage Millennial consumers with more granolas, mueslis, and ‘fashion-forward’ ingredients. But from what we can tell, these efforts have not fully stabilized the business,” Moskow told his investing clients.