Car company Mercedes Benz’s Sydney dealers gave notice they were ending support of the Alan Jones breakfast show on 2GB nearly a fortnight before controversy erupted over his comments at a speech about Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s father dying of shame, Mumbrella can reveal.
The company won widespread praise on social media and in the mainstream press for what was seen as a principled stance after it was one of the first brands to announce that it was withdrawing support.
It gained even more coverage in the Sunday papers after revealing that it was repossessing Jones’ sponsored Mercedes. “We want the car back, the deal is cancelled, it is over,” Mercedes spokesman David McCarthy told yesterday’s Sunday Telegraph. yesterday, as social media pressure grew on advertisers, 2GB announced that it was suspending all advertising on the show.
However, Mumbrella has learned that the Mercedes Benz Sydney dealer group gave a month’s notice of ending their advertising arrangement, as per the terms of its contract with 2GB on September 19 – three days before Jones made his offensive comments at the Sydney University Liberal Club President’s Dinner and ten days before The Sunday Telegraph reported them.
McCarthy denied the claim that the decision had already been taken, telling Mumbrella: “We made the decision last Sunday.” On that day, Mercedes posted on its Facebook page a message saying: “Mercedes-Benz Australia/Pacific has instructed its dealers to cease any form of advertising on the Alan Jones show as our company does not condone such inappropriate comments.”
However, Mumbrella has seen communications between the Sydney Mercedes Benz dealership group, their media agency and 2GB which gave a month’s notice that it wanted to end their advertising deal.
Notice was given on September 19, effective from September 20. Both the Mercedes Benz dealer group and their agency McKenzie Partners communicated to 2GB that they were ending the deal. To allow for a 28 day notice period, they said they wanted their last ads to run on Thursday October 18.
Jones did not make his speech until Saturday September 22 and it was not reported by the Sunday Telegraph until September 30.
Mumbrella understands that the reason the deal ended was for business reasons. Individual dealerships had previously advertised separately on the show, but had experimented with a joint deal which would see an equal rotation of mentions for the different dealerships. But the arrangement had not worked.
When approached by Mumbrella, 2GB and parent company Harbour Radio declined to comment on the timing of the withdrawal.
Jones attacked McCarthy on his show this morning. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, he told listeners: “Now this bloke McCarthy has big noted himself on behalf of Mercedes-Benz and said: ‘Well we want the car back straight away and if we don’t we’ll get over there and we’ll repossess it and we’ll take it away from him.’ You big hero Mr McCarthy. How many phone calls did you make to me, you absolutely gutless wonder? None, none. Easy to shoot your mouth off and present an image which is completely untrue.”
After Mumbrella saw the communications, we approached McCarthy again. He said: “Our dealers do not represent every contract we have with Harbour Radio. The contract with the car is the one we ended. The one with the dealer group is not our contract.” He said that while dealers may have had their own arrangement, the loan of the car to the station was from Mercedes directly.
Asked whether Mercedes had sought a PR benefit by publicising the demand to return the car, McCarthy said: ‘Please record the sound of my laughing. Thanks for asking the question. We are a professional company. We made the decision on a matter of principle. Any other factors people are ascribing to this, it’s crap.”