Vanderpump Rules star, Stassi Schroeder, was taken to task over statements made about the victims of Hollywood’s sexual misconduct scandals. Entercom quickly removed the episode (which is virtually unprecedented in the podcast universe) after a sudden exodus of sponsors including Rent the Runway, Framebridge, and Simple Contacts. Daily Mail, New York Daily News, People, and US Weekly–to name a few–have been abuzz. Since the weekend, Stassi has issued a public apology for her comments.
This cascading departure of advertisers signals a robust, booming podcast economy. While major media pillars are known for controversies (e.g. Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly, and Sean Hannity), the landscape effects are often the same: advertisers escape en masse as networks grow concerned over lost revenue, apologies are issued, and, in some cases, programs are canceled. Over the past week, we have seen two out of three of those events occur in an (apparently) not-so-nascent media type, with only a portion of cable network scale.
This is the power of podcast marketing backfiring–an equal and opposite reaction to the influence that hosts like Stassi have over their audiences. Controversy aside, let’s recognize this as a sign of legitimacy and influence as major media accountability snaps back against this burgeoning sector.
So What Else?
Buyer Beware: When considering influencer marketing as a performance channel, it is better to assume this type of incident is not an “if,” but a “when.” Top performing programs are often composed of firebrand personalities giving their opinions for hours per week, or per day. Controversial positions increase awareness, engagement, and ultimately, ad performance. Here’s a quick primer on how to react when you find yourself sponsoring a program caught in the controversy:
1. Collect the facts before taking a position
2. Consider your options carefully. Should you:
- Stand by the talent and support their position?
- Stand by the talent, but distance yourself from their position?
- Suspend your affiliation while you collect more facts and consider how the talent in question responds?
- Cut ties with the talent indefinitely?
3. Use this as an opportunity to deeply consider your brand’s position on controversial figures, internally and externally. Is there freedom to disagree on issues but still be in a partnership?
4. Do the math. What is the long-term revenue potential gained vs. lost by how this situation will be handled by talent and their representation?
5. Stick to your principles. No person nor company should violate their conscience, even if it means shutting down a long-term revenue stream and partnership. On the other hand, ask yourself: “If no one would have ever brought this up, would I still be having this type of reaction?” To accept a loss because you are living out your values deserves the highest praise. But there is no glory in being quick to react and rushing to judgment because the crowd is squawking during this news cycle. These are difficult matters, and every company must decide for themselves what path is right. Hopefully, this helps discover what path is right for you.
If this topic strikes a chord, please discuss with your Oxford Road Strategy Lead.