Oxford Road CEO on SiriusXM’s The Wilkow Majority Advising Brands During Political Controversy

“My note to all businesses, regardless of size, is that you should not discriminate based on politics for who your customers are going to be. And if your values differ from that of the host of a show, fine; use your sponsorship to start a conversation and build relationships and engage. Don’t sit in your echo chamber and just convince your friends of what you already believe. Go to other places and learn what the market really thinks because not everybody thinks like you think, on either side. And I think there’s a major missed opportunity here, which is not only bad for the discourse in this country just as Americans, but it’s really bad for business and hurts the bottom line.” – Dan Granger

Full Audio – HERE

Full Transcript Below:

Andrew Wilkow:

All right, so here we are, the last segment. Time flies when you’re having fun providing perfectly executed political analysis. We had a piece a while back in The Hill with the headline ‘What actually happens when ads are pulled over political controversy’, and the writer was Dan Granger, CEO and founder of Oxford Road. And, you know, kinda chronicling the Tucker boycott and the Laura boycott and the Hannity boycott. Karen comes to mind.

Andrew Wilkow:

He writes, “Conservatives in media say something controversial, ushering in an advertising exodus as sponsors have a moment of clarity, realizing their values do not align. We’ve seen this before. The red scare ripped through Hollywood, painting those with communist sympathies as enemies of the state who must be silenced and in some cases prosecuted. Conservatives in media today are not under threat of state-sponsored persecution … prosecution, but instead are subject to corporate boycotts at the direction of groups such as Media Matters, Sleeping Giants, and MoveOn.org. Today it’s subdued, but the song remains the same. Americans in powerful positions attempt to control the speech of other Americans with whom they disagree.”

Andrew Wilkow:

Well, you’re here in the studio, so I don’t have to read the whole thing. You know what’s funny is conservatives are loathe to go out and boycott things. There are probably some people that might not buy Ben and Jerry’s because of Ben and Jerry, and they’ve over politicized that brand. But even with some of the things Disney’s done as of late, most Republican conservative voters still want to go to the park and go to the Magic Kingdom, still, want to see the latest offering like Aladdin. It’s just not in the DNA of conservatives to boycott.

Dan Granger:

Well, I would argue that this is actually not about the will of the people and the grassroots voting American on the left or the right. This is usually driven by special interest groups. This is a small group of individuals that are actually paying people money to manufacturer these issues, and then they give it the appearance of being some sort of movement of the people, but it’s actually not, and that’s a big part of my problem with it.

Andrew Wilkow:

This is what I don’t get, whether it was Kerrigan, Hannity, or now Netflix and Disney and the Georgia abortion issue, which they’ve been proven to be hypocrites ’cause they shoot in countries all over the place that have banned abortion or same-sex marriage, or whatever it is. Why do these big companies that have very well-funded public relations departments and researchers who do their marketing kowtow to people who don’t represent anything when it comes down to potential sales and profit?

Dan Granger:

I think about this when I look at the shaving commercials that are coming out now.

Andrew Wilkow:

Some of them are getting ridicu-

Dan Granger:

Toxic,

Andrew Wilkow:

Yeah.

Dan Granger:

… masculinity thing. Concepts like that I have to think that there’s a revenue motive when you’re talking about it at that scale, which is a little bit different than what I think we’re talking about with some of the political talk shows. But at that scale, I feel like you’ve got a bunch of smart marketers that are looking at charts and graphs that say young people have progressive values. If we want young people in 20, 30 years, we need to adopt progressive values. And they’re trying to nurture a multi-generational sales cycle, which is a little bit different than we have changed our views as a corporation and we believe that the truth is x. We believe in y, and therefore we’re gonna do that. I am very suspicious that there are profit motives beyond righteousness and true core beliefs.

Andrew Wilkow:

I’ve often thought that a lot of these companies say, “Okay, who’s trying to attack our profit model?” Right? It’s the left. Evil corporations, the 1%, income inequality. I mean, you know, Amazon gets bludgeoned. Disney gets bludgeoned. You know, Bernie actually went after Disney. So they go, “If we virtue signal the right way, if we do the bidding of these activists up to this point, maybe they won’t attack our profit model anymore if we take the right stance. If we march in the Pride parade, or we say, ‘Maybe we won’t tape in this … ‘” You know that if they just do enough of that they can, you know, sneak away with their profits.

Dan Granger:

Yeah, I think that that’s possible. I think a lot of what we’re seeing here, however, is really a reaction, because the mechanisms have been put in place. I don’t think it would take many people. And look, I don’t come representing a political point of view on this.

Andrew Wilkow:

I gotcha.

Dan Granger:

I look out for the brands, and I also speak about it as an American because I think they’re actually making us further apart by fanning these flames. The problem that I see is that it won’t take many conservatives to manufacturer the same machinery and point it in the other direction. And I’d be very, very surprised if that doesn’t start happening soon. And it’s effectively just gonna be a race to the bottom.

Andrew Wilkow:

Here’s what I don’t get though,  if I’m in marketing, if I’m in sales, if I’m in advertising, I want to get my product in front of the largest potential buying demographic as possible. And, you know, I remember when I was in local terrestrial radio they’d say, “Look, the only thing that matters is these top three stations get the national ad buys.”

Dan Granger:

Right.

Andrew Wilkow:

“Everybody else is fighting for a local buy.”

Dan Granger:

Yeah.

Andrew Wilkow:

And local buys are great. You want that local dealership. You want that local restaurant. But what you really want is it’s not just the local dollars you have with, let’s say, Anheuser-Busch. You want Anheuser-Busch’s national buy. You want Dodge and Chrysler’s national buy. So you gotta make it into the top three.

Dan Granger:)

Yeah.

Andrew Wilkow:

And half the time the people that are placing the ads aren’t even looking at what the programming is. Right? I mean it could be top 40, rock, Spanish language, sports talk. Who cares? If you’re the top number one station in the market, you’re getting the ad buy, and that’s what a lot of these, ad placement, ad salespeople are looking for, or ad buyers are looking for.

Andrew Wilkow:

But now it’s, well, if you put your stuff on that program. You put yourself on the Wilkow Majority, you put yourself on Hannity, you’re gonna be in trouble. You put yourself on Mark Levin … It’s kind of like saying, “We’re gonna ruin your business model and the products you represent. We’re not gonna let you sell your products to those people.”

Andrew Wilkow:

And you know what I think is funny? I look at something like MSNBC. You can have one of their nighttime anchors do an entire bit on income inequality and cut to a BMW commercial. (laughs)

Dan Granger:

Yeah. Yeah.

Andrew Wilkow:

It’s the idea that BMW would go, “You know, we shouldn’t advertise on this program. They’re really kinda talking about how wealth is a bad thing.” Well, pretty much that’s their brand. Right? I mean their brand status is BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Audi, Cadillac, these are brands of status for people with money.

Dan Granger:

Right. Right. Well, I totally agree with you. And I was on the radio sales side locally for about 10 years, and so I got to see this firsthand-

Andrew Wilkow:

It’s a hard job. It’s a hard job.

Dan Granger:

Well, it’s a good job. A good way to learn how the actual small business owner is facing a lot of these challenges and problems. But what would ultimately happen is they would have a ‘Do not buy’ list. They effectively have a blacklist that big agencies, Madison Avenue shops, would just say, “Well, they’re on the list. We’re not gonna affiliate with them.” Because big brands generally want to stay away from controversy if they can avoid it.

Dan Granger:

What’s interesting is if you look at conservative content there’s generally a lot of performance marketers. A lot of the direct brands that are now spending billions of dollars on television, they gravitated towards some of this program, because they measure it and they know it works. And it works really well. And I think it’s actually provided a pricing advantage for companies that measure success by how many sales they make, rather than awareness or very vague KPI’s. They’ve actually created an opportunity for businesses to use conservative formats to grow their business in a unique way because some of the larger corporations stayed out of the way.

Dan Granger:

But my note to all businesses, regardless of size, is that you should not discriminate based on politics for who your customers are going to be. And if your values differ from that of the host of a show, fine; use your sponsorship to start a conversation and build relationships and engage. Don’t sit in your echo chamber and just convince your friends of what you already believe. Go to other places and learn what the market really thinks because not everybody thinks like you think, on either side. And I think there’s a major missed opportunity here, which is not only bad for the discourse in this country just as Americans, but it’s really bad for business and hurts the bottom line.

Andrew Wilkow:

You know it’s funny that you say that, that you look at a program with a large audience and big ratings, and if you’re a major brand, if you’re, General Motors, or like I said, Anheuser-Busch, you’d say, “Well, we’re not gonna advertise there.” Well, there are gonna be startup companies that are gonna go, “If you don’t want to … “

Dan Granger:

Correct.

Andrew Wilkow:

“If you’re gonna leave this space-

Dan Granger:

Exactly.

Andrew Wilkow:

… “open, we’ll go there.”

Dan Granger:

They will fill the vacuum, absolutely.

Andrew Wilkow:

“And you know what? We might be your competitor tomorrow.”

Dan Granger:

Right.

Andrew Wilkow:

And I look at so many of the advertisers on this program, and, you know, I take this up when they say, “Andrew, can you get … can you hop on with,” you know, whoever it is, I say sure. And we don’t even discuss the content of the program. We discuss, you know, “Hey, we sent you the product. Do you like it?” “Yeah, I like it.” “Okay, could you personalize your use of it?” “Sure.” “Great.”

Andrew Wilkow:

And then I seek to do that. And if there is a product that I don’t like, and- and I say, “Look, you know … ” Well, I can only say we had a couple shady mortgage lenders. You know, if there’s a rejection of the product, if I say, “Look, I, you know, I don’t think this is very good,” and I’m not gonna tell the audience I think it’s very good, that’s a totally different situation. But in most cases, I have Super Beats. I use it. I love Casper mattresses.

Dan Granger:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Andrew Wilkow:

I have no idea what the politics of their company are. They could be a bunch of flaming lefties. I don’t know. They make a good mattress. But from what I get from dealing with these companies is they say, “Okay, we think your program has an audience, and we think you have a demographic that could afford the product that we’re selling, we’d like to give you some of it so you’ll talk about it.”

Dan Granger:

Well, and-

Andrew Wilkow:

In the legal sense, not the [crosstalk 00:10:16]

Dan Granger:

Yeah.

Andrew Wilkow:

… the legal sense.

Dan Granger:

Yeah, no, I totally, agree with that. And look, our agencies work with over 150 of these direct brands, these direct to consumer brands. And over 12 of them we started as startups that nobody ever heard of, and then they were household names worth over a billion dollars. They’re unicorns.

Dan Granger:

And what we-

Andrew Wilkow:

SodaStream was one of ’em, wasn’t it?

Dan Granger:

What’s that?

Andrew Wilkow:

SodaStream was one of ’em, right?

Dan Granger:

Wasn’t me, but I believe they made the list.

Andrew Wilkow:

But they started that way.

Dan Granger:

Yeah. Well, and such is the nature of a direct brand is they’re very performance focused; they want to buy what works. And ultimately, what happens is, I find that these are very progressive companies. Most of them are based in San Francisco, New York, coastal cities. And the marketing teams and the executive teams are usually very far left-leaning.

Dan Granger:

However, when they’re focused on growing the business they generally will not discriminate. And sometimes you get somebody that says, “I only want to advertise … I’ll never advertise on that show ’cause I don’t believe in the politics.” But for the most part, these are business people that are doing their fiduciary duty to help grow the business with ads that work. Platforms like Sirius XM, podcasts, talk radio shows. Places where people are giving their opinion, that’s what moves the needle for an advertiser. That’s the best place that you can be because an audience member, as you know every day, is super engaged with this content, and that transfers into a value and a credibility to the advertiser that is really significant for them.

Dan Granger:

So if they’re looking at it objectively and they’re doing the math and they’re saying, “I spend X. I make Y.”  They gravitate towards this type of programming even if they don’t agree with it, which is actually a very good thing because it also exposes them to parts of the market that they might not otherwise come into contact with based on their personal preferences.

Dan Granger:

But where this becomes a problem, is they get under a surprise attack because somebody has some faux pas on the air. And, you know, your job is to talk for hours a day-

Andrew Wilkow:

Three hours.

Dan Granger:

Yeah, that’s a lot of … What is that? 10,000 words an hour. You put a few of ’em in the wrong order and all of a sudden they’re coming at you with pitchforks. So it’s very, very difficult to hold a listener’s attention, stay politically correct, and say things in a way that’s gonna be pleasing to everybody, not offend anybody, without people rattling the cages and then ushering in a potential exodus of advertisers because you happen to make a wrong move.

Dan Granger:

But I think the smart marketers say nothing. The smart marketers think. They want to know, “What did you mean by that?” They might even have a conversation with you about what you meant. But they give you the benefit of the doubt, and they try to do right by the marketplace. They try to do right by their customers. And most of the controversy that you see where advertisers actually leave, unfortunately, is fabricated. It’s not actually organic, or an expression of what their customers are actually telling them. It’s something else.

Andrew Wilkow:

But isn’t there also something too … like I remember you … I think it was the Tucker boycott that none of the advertisers saw any sales drop-offs. Right? If you start to see sales drop-offs [crosstalk 00:13:10]

Dan Granger:

No, no, no, this has nothing to do with sales. Are you kidding me? And what’s amazing is that people believe that it is. That’s the perception is that the marketplace said, “Oh, did you hear what Tucker said? We’re gonna pull off of that prog … or we’re not gonna buy that product anymore.” They’re not doing that.

Dan Granger:

There are … You know who the organizations are-

Andrew Wilkow:

Yeah.

Dan Granger:

… but they monitor, they listen, they pay staff. They have interns that are literally listening to everything, and then they go, “Oh, gotcha. He said X, which means he believes Y. And therefore if you advertise there, then you believe Z.” And they make these assumptions, these if-then scenarios, that are frankly unfair, unfounded, and really destructive for the conversation that they could be having with each other that would lead to better sales for their business and a more united America.

Andrew Wilkow:

I’m gonna run out of time, but I want to wrap with this if we can. Dan Granger, CEO and founder of Oxford Road is joining us. Let’s roll it back before the controversy. If you’re looking at advertising in a startup, if you put your money into a startup, you hope that they are working night and day to grow that brand. If they’ve already decided before they even get off the ground, “We’re not gonna advertise here,” you’re essentially saying you want me to invest in you, but you’re not gonna do everything in your power to grow the brand, over politics. That sounds like a bad investment no matter what your politics are.

Dan Granger:

That might work in this economy for a little while longer. If and when there’s a correction you’re gonna see some of that hubris going away. That’s my prediction.

Andrew Wilkow:

It doesn’t make any sense to me. And, you know, if somebody said to me, you know, “Well, I wouldn’t advertise on that liberal program,” I’d say, “Well, do they have an audience?” If they’ve got an audience, you should advertise with them. Right?

Dan Granger:

Right.

Andrew Wilkow:

You’re not here to be a listener. You’re here to reach the listener. Right? You don’t have to be the listener to reach the listener.

Dan Granger:

I have a mantra on this, and it’s I disagree with what you say, but I’ll sponsor your right to say it. And we shouldn’t discriminate. Whether we’re on the left or the right, we should want to reach people. We’re reaching individuals that believe-

Andrew Wilkow:

Where’s the audience?

Dan Granger:

… all kinds of different things.

Andrew Wilkow:

Where’s the audience, right?

Dan Granger:

Right. Right, right.

Andrew Wilkow:

Where’s the au … You know,  it’s funny … We’re gonna run out of time ’cause my top of the hour’s gonna kick in. I see this every time Disney puts a film out, that there’s always some aggrieved group of academics-

Dan Granger:

Sure.

Andrew Wilkow:

… or activists-

Dan Granger:

Sure.

Andrew Wilkow:

… that say, “Well, this is an unfair portrayal,” or “This is- you didn’t get this right,” or “You were culturally insensitive here,” and then it’s a box office smash.

Dan Granger:

Right.

Andrew Wilkow:

So your little animosity towards this film-

Dan Granger:

Yes.

Andrew Wilkow:

… apparently didn’t work. People wanted to see it.

Dan Granger:

It’s not a reflection of the marketplace, and that’s what I’m trying to expose and help out advertisers understand, that this is not the will of the people, this is a small fringe group.

Andrew Wilkow:

We’ll have to get you back on this, ’cause this is good stuff. All right. We’re right. They’re wrong. That’s the end of the story. The arguments on this radio program cannot be broken. Follow us on Twitter @WilkowMajority, @WilkowMajority, @WilkowMajority. Friday night, 7:30, new episode of Wilkow on BlazeTV. I can’t tell you what we got going on, but when I do you’re gonna dig it. Take the free trial. BlazeTV.com/Wilkow SiriusXM Patriot.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *