Where Imus Goes, Advertisers Will Follow

If Don Imus, the exiled morning dee-jay returns to the airwaves this Fall, which is widely expected, it won’t be long until major advertisers line up to sponsor his show.

Imus, who was banished by CBS and MSNBC last April for racially derogatory remarks made in reference to the Rutgers University womens basketball team, has freed himself from his contract with CBS and has been negotiating with other radio outlets. He has also reportedly been seen scouting comedy clubs and reviewing tapes of comedians, specifically African American comedians, to be on his newly constituted show.

Advertisers including General Motors, Staples and American Express pulled ads from Imus’s show even before he was suspended, and then fired.. There is speculation that he may surface at New York’s WABC-AM. If he does, look for second and third tier advertisers like mattress companies and car-repair chains to be the first wave of advertisers to buy what will be cheaply priced time on Imus’s show. If he behaves himself, and ratings climb, GM and others will almost surely follow.

GM, for example, has been courting the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Glen Beck, buying ad time on their shows and getting them to talk up GM models. Obscenity may be defined by the FCC. But these guys are as offensive as Imus ever was when talking about people they don’t like or agree with—i.e. Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Cindy Sheehan. If they can support these guys, they can certainly advertise on Imus again without too much fear of retribution. Some advertisers that previously advertised on Imus will probably stay away for good. But those advertisers, I would think, will be more than off-set by new advertisers that hadn’t been part of Imus’s mix before.

Imus’s audience has always been smaller that shows like Limbaugh. But his audince demographic is much more valuable. He attracts a much higher income and more educated listener than Limbaugh and Hannity. Hmmmm. Wonder why?

Look for Imus to re-cast his new show. It won’t be exactly like the one he left behind at CBS and MSNBC. For one thing, a lot of media personalities and politicians who were a mainstay will stay away…at least until he proves he has changed his stripes, and is willing to provide a safer on-air environment for them.

Some media types will flat out be asked by their employers not to appear on the show. Politicians will wait and see if any constituent groups come out against Imus when he’s back on the air. It should be interesting.

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