When Not Advertising Works Better Than Advertising

Bill O’Reilly would be on television this evening if Mercedes-Benz and other advertisers had not pulled their ads from running during his show.  These advertisers muscled O’Reilly off the air because it became factually apparent he grossly mistreated women in the workplace.

These advertisers didn’t want their brands connected to that behavior. and other advertisers are staging a similar boycott of another Fox show.  The host in question disrespected the life of a murder victim and his family, by continually reporting news about the crime that was factually uncorroborated because it made for a more sensational narrative.

These advertisers didn’t want their brands connected to that behavior.

In response to the boycott, Fox issued a retraction, and the host in question promised to stop covering that story.  

You may (or may not) think these boycotts were politically motivated, but we can agree they caused change to occur quickly, while defending the value of human life.

Advertising is a business.  Life is precious.  This advertising boycott thing has legs.

I read yet another heartbreaking article about a texting and driving death.  This one was about Ben Lieberman, whose 19-year-old son Evan was killed in an auto accident.  It took six months and multiple court proceedings to allow police to access mobile data showing that the driver of the car Evan was sitting in was texting at the time of the deadly accident.  

Ben Lieberman took his unimaginable pain and redirected it to a solution.  He teamed up with a technology company to create a “textalyzer,” which acts like a breathalyzer, reporting if a driver was texting at the time of an accident.  

Lieberman is hoping this will act as a deterrent from texting and driving, just as the breathalyzer has caused drinkers who drive to think twice before getting behind the wheel.  The article about Lieberman then reported how much resistance there will be to this new technology because of privacy issues.  

Sorry, Mr. Lieberman, you understand, right?

I would love to know what percent of text message sessions occur while a car is moving at 60 miles per hour.  I would love to know what percent of mobile visits to Facebook (and other social media platforms) take place from a moving vehicle. Is it 5%? 10%?  20%? Maybe the percentage isn’t that high given the base, but I suspect the raw number is shockingly high.

If you had these stats, you could then apply an estimate to account for drivers versus passengers — and then we would have a data point on the enormity of this epidemic.

If stats aren’t your thing, a drive on the Garden State Parkway on a holiday weekend will tell you how pervasive this problem is, despite “do not text and drive” marketing efforts.  

We can point our fingers at the car companies, the cell carriers, the phone manufacturers, the social media platforms, and of course consumers themselves. Or we can look in the mirror as an industry, and own our contribution to this societal problem.  

Mobile ad dollars are helping fund the senseless killing of human beings caused by phone addiction. Why do advertisers want to be connected to this behavior?

What if advertisers boycotted running their ads on mobile devices until this problem of texting while driving was resolved?  What kind of statement would these brands make to parents everywhere, if the mobile ad industry was told it wouldn’t see another ad dollar until this problem was eliminated?

We don’t lack the technology to arrest this problem. We lack the incentive.  A mobile advertising boycott would fix that.

If mobile advertising died tomorrow, consumers wouldn’t even notice.  If it died temporarily and for the right reason, it could save thousands of lives.

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