Mercedes-Benz USA and Hyundai Motor both said they had taken steps to ensure their commercials would not run on Fox News Channel’s “O’Reilly Factor” in the wake of revelations disclosed over the weekend of several claims of sexual harassment being made against the host in recent years.
“The allegations are disturbing and, given the importance of women in every aspect of our business, we don’t feel this is a good environment in which to advertise our products right now,” the company said in a statement. The automaker will instead run advertising elsewhere on the 21st Century Fox-owned outlet, said Donna Boland, manager of corporate communications for Mercedes Benz USA. Hyundai said in a statement that it is “reallocating” commercials that were slated to air in the program “due to the recent and disturbing allegations. As a company we seek to partner with companies and programming that share our values of inclusion and diversity. We will continue to monitor and evaluate the situation as we plan future advertising decisions.”
A Fox News Channel spokesperson was not able to offer immediate comment.
On Saturday, the New York Times reported that five women had received payments coming to about $13 million in exchange for agreeing not to pursue litigation or speak about accusations related to sexual harassment or inappropriate behavior by Bill O’Reilly, the veteran Fox News broadcaster who is the linchpin of the network’s primetime lineup. O’Reilly in a statement said his fame had made him a target, but that no complaint about him had ever been made through Fox’s human-resources hotline.
The automakers’ decisions to move advertising away from O’Reilly’s “Factor” may not have financial consequences for the network. The companies are simply moving ads to other Fox News content. The tactic is commonly used by advertisers who want to avoid negative publicity associated with a particular program, but in fact like the results they get from advertising on the network that shows it. In mid-2015, a number of marketers including General Mills, Yum Brands’ Pizza Hut, PepsiCo’s Pure Leaf Iced Tea, Choice Hotels and Crayola LLC all publicly stated they had removed their commercials from “19 Kids and Counting,” a TLC reality show that spotlighted the Duggar family in light of news that the oldest boy in the family had sexually assaulted teenage girls. But none of the sponsors pulled their ad dollars previously earmarked for TLC or other properties owned by its parent, Discovery Communications.
And yet, their maneuvers could make other advertisers nervous. In 2007, a number of advertisers, including Procter & Gamble, decided to make sure their ads stopped appearing during MSNBC’s morning broadcasts of radio host Don Imus’ program on that network after he made racist remarks about the Rutgers University women’s basketball team. Some of those ads turned up during the Imus broadcast as part of a “run of schedule” buy that gave the network some freedom to place the commercial during a span of hours on its daytime schedule. But P&G yanked its commercials from the network, even as others simply insisted their ads no longer appear during the Imus program. MSNBC canceled its Imus telecast within only a few days of Procter’s decision.
O’Reilly made no mention of the controversy on his program Monday night, and a large number of both traditional and direct-response commercials accompanied a typical edition of his program. Advertisers included Claritin, PCMatic.com, Jenny Craig, John Deer and Prevagen.