Burning Question: Is the ‘Duck Dynasty’ Flap All Over Already?
Despite Phil Robertson's quacking about gays and African Americans, it didn't take long for A&E to reverse its "indefinite suspension." Meanwhile, GLAAD and other critics are no longer sounding off and advertisers are still willing to pay top dollar for a slot on "Duck Dynasty." Whither the backlash?
Or more like wither the backlash. And there's two things at work here. First, the most outspoken critics, such as the folks at GLAAD, are taking a breather. The gay-rights advocacy group, whose initial statement seemed to suggest a potential "Duck Dynasty" boycott (it read in part: "Phil's decision to push vile and extreme stereotypes is a stain on A&E and his sponsors who now need to reexamine their ties to someone with such public disdain for LGBT people and families"), has been especially quiet in recent days.
Don't expect to hear anything from GLAAD for a bit longer. Yahoo has learned that the group is ratcheting down its rhetoric until the organization meets with A&E. The sides are slated to huddle next week to talk about next steps.
[Related: Why 'Duck Dynasty' Will Thrive Post-Phil Scandal]
Meanwhile, there are the advertisers, who after some early hesitation are back in full force, pony up big bucks for the privilege of putting their commercials on "Duck Dynasty" when the show returns in one week. And why's that?
Because: Money. Filthy lucre. Dolla dolla bills. Lotsa de casha.
In other words — according to ad agencies, celebrity branding experts and industry analysts —"Duck Dynasty" delivers so many eyeballs in such a desirable demographic that A&E and advertisers have weighed the pros versus possible cons and seen … too many pros to care. Shoot, what's one li'l loudmouth when there are millions and millions of dollars to make? Let the advertising hoedown continue! Write up another o' them there $180,000 advertisin' checks!
"Advertisers are always sensitive and they don’t want to offend any of their consumer bases," Tina Rolon, broadcast director at the advertising agency McGarrah Jessee, tells me. "But there seems to be so much support for family that A&E and advertisers are confident that the viewers will come back. The voices in support just seem to be louder."
Indeed, Duck Dynasty, with its faux-golly-gee-redneck sensibility and familiar, sitcom-like staging, is huge. There’s a reason why the family has a merch empire worth something like $400 million.
"It does better than anything on cable besides 'The Walking Dead,'" says The Wrap's Tim Molloy.
[Related: How 'Duck Dynasty' Become So Huge]
And among those viewers is another prize — a diamond within all that cozy duck down, if you will.
"The show does better with a more rural religious demographic, which is a big slice of the audience," Molloy says. "The way TV works now is that if you can get any niche audience you can have a hit. With 'Duck Dynasty,' advertisers have a huge one: one that loves god and guns."
And that doesn't particularly care about, say, civil rights issues, I am told.
"Nobody wants a boycott," muses Jon Lafayette, business editor for the trade magazine Broadcasting & Cable, "but in this case the people supporting the 'Duck Dynasty' folks are less likely to be offended by [Phil Robertson’s] kind of talk.
"A lot of people who advertise on 'Duck Dynasty' make outdoor gear, things like that, because viewers are countrified people. And those people are going to be in those parts of the country where that talk is more tolerated rather than creating strong offense.”
There's one last reason why advertisers are paying upwards of $180,000 for a decent presence on "Duck Dynasty": they feel insulated from any future backlash.
"Consumers do not directly attribute Phil’s comment to advertisers," celebrity branding consultant Jeetendr Sehdev points out. "There is leeway there."
At least, there is right now.
Let's see what happens with the GLAAD-A&E summit next week. Whether the group decides to take action after that is anyone’s guess.
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Leslie Gornstein is an entertainment writer and the host of the weekly Hollywood gossip podcast The Fame Fatale.