Kellogg’s Pulls Advertising From Breitbart, Citing Company ‘Values’

Brands and companies taking sides could be the “new normal” in a polarized post-election America, expert says

Kellogg’s became the latest company to remove its advertising from Breitbart News on Tuesday, following in the footsteps of AllState, Nest and several other companies who have publicly denounced the so-called “alt-right” website.

“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,” Kellogg’s spokesperson Kris Charles said. “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.”

Modcloth, Earthlink and SoFi are also among the companies who have removed their advertising from the site, which has come under fire for articles that critics say promote racist, sexist and white nationalist views. Third-party ad service AppNexus recently blacklisted Breitbart, claiming it violated their terms of service regarding hate speech.

“What’s the larger audience, the alt-right Breitbart or everybody else? They probably did a calculation about what’s going to help their brand or hurt their brand the most,” said Ira Kalb, the president and CEO of the consulting firm Kalb & Associates, and a professor at the USC Marshall School of Business. “I have to believe if their marketing’s any good, they have some data to back that up.”

This could become an increasingly common move for brands in our polarized country, Kalb said. But that’s a troubling proposition for brands who are seeing their customer base reduced along political lines.

“Normally, you don’t want your clients to be making any political statements at all. You want to sell your stuff to everybody who wants Corn Flakes,” he said. “But if you’re drawn into it, normally you’re going to take the side of the larger group that matches your target audience. Or whatever lines up with the beliefs of the company, or the founder, or the shareholders.”

Not all companies have removed their advertising from Breitbart. Nissan, for instance, released a statement last week saying that “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.”

Other companies may not even know where ads for their products appear, as many are serviced through third-party networks such as AppNexus or Google’s DoubleClick, which still services ads on Breitbart.

“Before this last election, I would’ve said this was a bad trend, but this might be the new normal,” Kalb said. “I hope not. But if you’re going to do this, you definitely want to have a moral compass … but you could be offending your customers, you could be offending your employees, you could be offending your shareholders. And you really don’t want to do that if you can help it.”

The Twitter account Sleeping Giants has aimed to put pressure on Breitbart’s advertisers, tagging the companies in photos of their ads running next to the site’s headlines, and calling on them to take them down. “We are trying to stop racist websites by stopping their ad dollars. Many companies don’t even know it’s happening. It’s time to tell them,” the account wrote in a tweet from last week.

But will this campaign have any affect on Breitbart, which boasted more than 19 million readers last month according to comScore, and whose former executive chairman will hold the second highest-ranking advisory role in Donald Trump’s White House come January?

“If they’re about expressing a point of view, it’s not going to change them. But if they’re about expanding their audience, it might,” Kalb said. “It probably won’t affect [Breitbart], since they’re not really trying to be in the mainstream.”