Blow-by-blow of a backlash: Laura Ingraham’s latest controversy

In the era of social over-sharing and the 24 hour news cycle, brands need to be cautious to avoid causing offense. This holds particularly true for personal brands as well. In the past year alone, we’ve seen the fall of high-profile personalities like Bill O’Reilly, Matt Lauer and countless others after the rise of the #MeToo movement. And now another Fox News anchor has become embroiled in a different type of controversy.

Laura Ingraham, host of the Ingraham Angle since October 2017, found herself apologizing after mocking Stoneman Douglass High School shooting survivor David Hogg. Ingraham sent out an offensive tweet on Wednesday, March 28 insulting Hogg for getting rejected from several colleges. By Thursday, advertisers were already pulling their ads from Ingraham’s show.

Offending someone on Twitter is nothing new – but when that someone is a teenager who was recently flung into the spotlight, the risks of doing so can be quite high – particularly in an age when the right person can develop a huge platform overnight. Following Ingraham’s tweet, Hogg immediately took to Twitter himself to ask his 600K+ followers, a number that has since only grown, to boycott her biggest advertisers. It didn’t take long to get the response he wanted from the brands.

Ad time takes a hit

From March 12-28, average advertising time (mm:ss) during the Ingraham Angle was 15:13. By March 30, advertising time was slashed by more than half. Among the companies announcing their withdrawal from Ingraham Angle, five were Top 20 spenders in the show during Q1 2018. They included (in alphabetical order):

  • Bayer AG Group
  • Hulu Llc
  • Johnson & Johnson
  • Liberty Mutual Insurance Co
  • Wayfair Llc

Other advertisers withdrawing their commercials from the show include:

The advertisers who have announced their withdrawal from Ingraham's program accounted for 13% of her commercial time in the two weeks before the boycott.  Ad time was down 40% during the March 30th telecast and down 52% on March 31st, indicating a broader base of withdrawals than just the marketers who have made public statements.

Although it is a comparatively new show, compared to other programs in the Fox News primetime line-up, the Ingraham Angle had been holding its own. Post-boycott there has clearly been a significant change:

The boycott is reflected in the March 29t and 30 telecasts which both had close to or less than 50% of the typical ad time. Sean Hannity's program consistently carries 15-20% less ad time than the rest of the primetime line-up, a disparity that suggests some hesitation to be associated with his personal brand, and Ingraham is now lagging even that.

Social Media spirals

Despite Ingraham’s apology coming just one day later, the backlash across social media has been fierce. To date, our Reputation Intelligence service has monitored over one million online news and social media posts since the feud began. The online battle was primarily waged on Twitter, but news outlets and other social channels also carried discussion.

While much of the conversation was supportive of Hogg and the boycott threats against her advertisers, Ingraham’s defenders were vocal as well.

Some referred to Hogg as the “Parkland bully” and took advertisers to task for giving in to him, accusing the companies’ of not supporting free speech and announcing subsequent boycotts of these companies in response.

When it came to hashtags, seven of the top ten were critical of Ingraham, with the top most tweeted hashtag being #FireIngraham. On the other side of the aisle three hashtags – including the second-most tweeted (#IStandWithLauraIngraham) supported the Fox News host.

Among Ingraham’s advertisers, Nestlé received the most attention, appearing in over 22% of tweets on the topic. This however includes Nestlé being mentioned in the list of advertisers pulling ads. Although Nestlé was most often mentioned overall, TripAdvisor was most often specifically addressed by its Twitter handle.

With Ingraham now taking one week off it remains to be seen if social media and boycott threats die down or cause further advertisers to depart the show. We’ll continue to monitor this story as it unfolds. For more information or any inquiries in the meantime, contact us today.



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