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Bloomberg reports that Kellogg Co. said yesterday that it is pulling all its ads from the website Breitbart News, described as "the right-wing news organization whose former chairman Steve Bannon has been tapped as a top adviser to president-elect Donald Trump."

The story goes on to say that "brands advertising on Breitbart have drawn flak in recent weeks, with activists saying the website espouses racist and anti-Semitic views. A screen shot showing an advertisement for Kellogg's Frosted Mini Wheats was part of an online campaign to get marketers to abandon the site ... AppNexus, one of the biggest digital advertising services, barred Breitbart from using its ad-serving tools earlier this month because it felt the publisher violated its hate-speech rules."

Kris Charles, a spokeswoman for Kellogg, said that the company works regularly with "media-buying partners to ensure our ads do not appear on sites that aren't aligned with our values as a company. 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."

Bloomberg notes that Breitbart News Network CEO Larry Solov has said in the past that the company "has always and continues to condemn racism and bigotry in any form."

And the Associated Press reports that Breitbart responded to the Kellogg's decision this way: “Kellogg’s decision to blacklist one of the largest conservative media outlets in America is economic censorship of mainstream conservative political discourse. That is as un-American as it gets.”

Two other points worth noting here.

The Bloomberg story says that Breitbart "had 19 million unique monthly visitors in October, up from 12.9 million a year ago, according to ComScore."

And the Washington Post reports that "Kellogg isn’t the first brand to pull its advertising from the website. That growing list includes Allstate, Nest, EarthLink, Warby Parker and SoFi." In virtually all these cases, the companies' ads were placed on Breitbart by third-party media planners, and the companies are now reining those companies in and taking greater control of the placements.
KC's View:
Gee, I can't imagine why a company looking to appeal to a broad spectrum of consumers would be concerned about a website that refers to pundit Bill Kristol as a "renegade Jew" because he did not support Donald Trump, or features stores with headlines such as “Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive and Crazy,” or “Hoist It High And Proud: The Confederate Flag Proclaims A Glorious Heritage,” or “There’s No Hiring Bias Against Women In Tech, They Just Suck At Interviews.”

Look, this is going to get complicated for a lot of CPG and media companies. The CPG companies aren't in the business of offending potential and existing customers, and media companies have to figure out how to navigate some treacherous terrain.

There was a piece in the New York Times the other day that looked at how different media outlets were dealing with the term "alt-right," which some describe as focused on economic nationalism, and others define as a term that "euphemizes and legitimizes the ideologies of racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and white supremacy," as well as "hard-core misogyny."

You can take either view you want. CPG companies have to make choices, and most almost always going to choose a path that they believe will be seen as inclusive ... because not being seen as inclusive by either customers or employees won't be good for business. It is that simple. By this standard, I think Kellogg's made absolutely the right decision. (It was not, no matter what anyone wants to say or think, a "right-or-left" decision. It was a business decision.)

Where this is going to get more complicated is if they are accused of being anti-American because they choose not to advertise in certain places. If this sort of thinking gets any sort of traction, then we're all in for trouble. Last time I checked, Kellogg's has the same freedom of speech rights that Breitbart does. And that includes deciding where and when not to speak.

One final note. Politics have come up a number of times recently on MNB, and I have received emails from some folks suggesting that this is a topic I should avoid. While I understand and appreciate the advice, I think these are entirely legitimate business subjects to discuss here on MNB ... it may not always be safe, but I think being safe is overrated. And if we don't talk about these issues as a community, we run the risk of ignoring or underestimating their import. I'm going to do my best to be fair, but I don't want to shy away from the subject when it seems appropriate to be engaged.