Ads on Coulter’s Blog Spawn Anti-Brand Ire

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Ann Coulter’s blog was down for hours and hours today, likely the result of an attack. Calling presidential candidate John Edwards a “faggot” didn’t go down too terribly well in many circles. Newspapers have dropped her column like a hot potato, and advertisers, including Verizon, Sallie Mae, and NetBank, hastened to abandon her blog.

Yet network ads are still running on her site. Once I finally reached it today (after trying intermittently for seven hours), Commission Junction was serving ads for major brands including Yahoo, Circuit City, and USA Today.

This sort of negative brand association will doubtless spawn discussion of the dangers of advertising on blogs and other forms of CGM. But Coulter, like her or not (if you’re capable of pushing her contemptible comment aside for a moment), is a big gun.

Agency media buyers and ad networks work hard to further their clients’ goals, but this sort of thing can, and obviously does, happen — and no one can anticipate it. Advertisers really can’t opt-out of sites like this one before the fact.

But what contingency plans are in place to prevent incidents like this one from occurring, or at least to stem the damage once something like this happens? A reader wrote in today, “Does Yahoo support extremist political messages like this? Is Yahoo prejudiced against gays?”

It’s time ad networks developed a crisis-management plan, but defining the parameters won’t be easy. Should they automatically pull ads from sites that generate too much negative controversy? Reach out to advertisers (or their agencies) offering an opt-out? After all, advertisers re likely unaware they’re even associated with sites espousing high-profile, incendiary hate.

Definitely food for thought, although even on that topic Coulter and I differ, as usual. When I finally hit her homepage today, the headline (dated Feb. 28) was “LET THEM EAT TOFU!”

How on earth did she know what I was having for lunch at that precise moment?

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