Imus Fallout For Media Marketers: Janet Jackson Chill Will Turn Icy

The second-day story on the Imus firings -- first by MSNBC and now by CBS -- is an easier one: What changes for advertisers in regards to language in the media?

This could be akin to Janet Jackson's breast-baring incident, where there was "indecency" according to the Federal Communications Commission. Is what Imus said, calling the Rutgers University women's basketball team a bunch of "nappy-headed hos," indecent?

Yes, it is, on too many levels: gender, race, and social class. Looking back, the nano-second glimpse of Jackson's breast doesn't seem so bad now, does it?

Interestingly, both incidents took place at CBS' media venues, TV and radio.

Now, if you are a major advertiser, how do you defend yourself when some fellow on the "Jerry Springer" show has some unkind, bleep-worthy words about his wife who has been two-timing him with his sister, his mother, his whatever.



National advertisers will probably be all too careful in the coming months, hoping that another Imus incident doesn't blow up in their faces. Think I'm wrong? Rev. Al Sharpton, who led the charge against Imus, has already said this is only the start. Sharpton has tasted big success from the Imus firings -- and will take major credit.

If he comes marching into the office of Comedy Central to talk about some off-color jokes on "South Park," what do you think those executives will do? If he walks into any of the young-skewing advertisers who buy time on that show, what do you think those companies will do?

Forget about "SouthPark" for a second. Most of the media gains success by being edgy -- from FX to cable news shows. Timemagazine recently reminded us that for Bill O'Reilly on Fox or Glenn Beck on CNN, "offense is the coin of the cable realm." What would happen if advertisers believed that someone was unfairly targeted, that someone's reputation was hurt?

If there was a chill when it came to content on live awards shows, sporting events, and the like - all with those 5-second, 7-second and 10-second delays - then what will happen in the next couple of months will give media sellers frostbite.

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