The uproar over Don Imus’ appalling comments about the Rutgers women’s basketball team have thrown a sharp spotlight onto how powerful consumers can be in the marketplace — simply when they stand up for what’s right.
By rebuking Imus’ racist, mysogynistic statements, the distinguished women of Rutgers and the men and women who have supported them have literally brought a multi-billion dollar corporation to its knees. More importantly, the women are forcing MSNBC, along with CBS and NBC, to finally confront their tolerance of Imus’ 30-year broadcasting history of trash-talk.
Of course, the networks are talking a little trash themselves. They’re giving a lot of lip service to how abhorrent Imus is, even though he really didn’t say anything they haven’t heard — and tolerated — in one way or another over the last three decades.
What makes it different this time is the fact that, with women standing together and flexing their collective consumer muscle, advertisers got scared enough to start pulling their support from Imus’ program. Reported the New York Times today, "Starting this week, large advertisers began telling MSNBC and CBS not to broadcast their ads during "Imus in the Morning." The companies, like Procter & Gamble (a major producer of goods women buy) and Staples, said they were dismayed that their brands had been associated with Mr. Imus’s offensive remark."
Somewhere between $20 million and $50 million in ad revenue is at stake for the broadcasting companies; potentially much more could be lost by advertisers if they continue to support a shock-jock whose foul comments have clearly alienated their biggest customers.
There’s a lesson to be learned here for all of us working to protect the environment but feeling like we have our own "shock-jocks" to stand up to.
We have power in the marketplace. When we use it — individually as well as collectively — we don’t just take the "shock" out of the jock. We force change throughout the entire system that was blithely looking the other way when the jock was doing his damage. Hopefully, that change is what gets us closer to the world we really want to live in.
So…anybody ready to take on Rush Limbaugh?