Alan Jones’ former advertisers should ‘get shit’ if they sneak back to 2GB: IAA panel

Marc Fennell from SBS’ The Feed has said the media needs to hold brands to account if they return their advertising dollars to the Alan Jones Breakfast Show on 2GB.

Since Jones said Prime Minister Scott Morrison should shove a sock down Jacinda Ardern’s throat and get “tough here with a few backhanders”, 29 advertisers have pulled out of 2GB’s dominant breakfast slot. Whether those advertisers stand behind their decision and stay off 2GB’s airwaves is a different story, and one that needs to be watched, said Fennell.

“This comes down to sustainability to a degree … The problem with this particular mechanism is that it is short term, you get your name on a list of brands that have pulled out, you can crow about it on social media,” Fennell said, speaking on an International Advertising Association panel last night.

The IAA panel: Marc Fennell, Sheba Nandkeolyar, Jarther Taylor, Helen Merrick and Ricci Meldrum

“I really would like to see some dedicated media reporter paying attention and calling out the exact day when those brands go back, because when they can be shamed for that, when they have to cop the negative to go with the positive, then you will see, perhaps, a more consistent behaviour from those brands,” he said.

“If you can identify that moment, and make sure that that brand is being held to account. If you got your social media bump for pulling out, and you go back, you should get shit for that.”

Fennell said advertisers need to get criticism as well as praise

Fellow panellists agreed that advertisers are likely to sidle up to 2GB again. Jones himself said this week that advertisers “can make their own judgment – but they go, there will be others to take their place”.

“I think you can pull out and at some point you do flip in again because it’s a commercial reality, it’s a high-rating breakfast radio show. If that’s the target you need to reach, at some point you’re like, ‘Okay I’ve sent the signal, I’ve pulled the money out because I don’t want you to behave like this’. You have a meeting with Macquarie [Media, the owner of 2GB] and have that conversation with them, and at some point you’re like ‘Okay we’re going back in again’,” Jarther Taylor, KPMG’s marketing director, explained.

Taylor said that withholding support only temporarily is sometimes a “commercial reality”

“I don’t know the answer. I think it’s sort of one of those things that it kind of all needs to come together. He needs to just go against the right person, or the wrong person, at the wrong time, the wrong way for it all to come together. And a number of brands who happen to be investing heavily pulling out at that moment. And he’s in the middle of negotiating, or something else going on, and that’s when it sort of falls over.”

TBWA’s Ricci Meldrum added that advertisers withdrawing support is “commercial punishment”, a way to question how Macquarie is controlling its talent and a prompt for Macquarie to question Jones.

“I think the challenge is that it’s happened too often,” Meldrum said.

Meldrum is TBWA’s regional group head – ANZ

However, Helen Merrick, ANZ’s marketing lead in the everyday banking space, noted that flipping support on and off is “a little bit the nature of advertising”, noting that while “it’s a bit shameful and brands shouldn’t do it”, it happens, and will continue happening, including in the realm of sponsorships.

“As a sponsor, which is not quite the same as an advertiser, but let’s talk about a sponsorship arrangement that you’ve maybe signed for three years or five years, that you have invested, as a brand, a tremendous amount of blood, sweat and tears into,” Merrick said.

ANZ’s Merrick

“You’ve probably, maybe, got deep communities, activations around the headline sponsorship. Let’s imagine, a very senior person at a very high-profile, global football organisation does something very bad and you’re involved with sponsorship, for example. It’s a bloody difficult thing to unstitch and at the point where you decide you’re going to, certainly in a sponsor relationship, that’s a huge moment. Financially. Practically. Strategically.”

The panel acknowledged Macquarie Media chairperson Russell Tate’s statement, in which he said that should Jones make similar comments again, his contract will be terminated. The issue is, hasn’t Jones had enough chances already, they questioned.

“Well, really? Haven’t we had a bunch of strikes already?” Taylor said.

“He incited a race riot,” Fennell added. “Like, come on.”

But Meldrum is optimistic. Perhaps we’ve reached a level of cultural maturity that means Jones’ latest comments irreparably, rather than temporarily, damage his brand, and therefore damage 2GB?

“It does feel, in some ways, like we’re on a little bit of a tipping point, with Alan Jones,” she said.

“I’m hoping…”


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