Boycott Watch  
June 16, 2009
Letterman Boycott Results in Embassy Suites PR Crash
Summary: Embassy Suites reaction defies logic, hurts itself.
    If you have been living without electricity or any contact with the rest of the world for the past week, then you have an excuse for not knowing that last week David Letterman made a comment about getting the daughter of Alaska Governor Palin pregnant. The only problem is the joke was about the Governor's fourteen year old daughter, which legally makes that rape. Mr. Letterman claims he thought the older daughter was on the trip and has made three separate on-air apologies, but that has not stopped the firestorm of criticism against Mr. Letterman.

    In the mean time, boycott calls of the Letterman show are flooding the blogs and several conservative commentators are calling for a boycott of the Letterman show. Meanwhile, Governor Palin has publicly accepted the third apology, but the boycotts have taken a new twist.

    In addition to the blogs, one website was created to specifically address the boycott. The websites lists businesses which advertise on the Letterman show and is encouraging people to boycott advertisers, which is by definition a secondary boycott. There are two problems here. First, Governor Palin has already accepted the apology from Mr. Letterman, so a boycott here is no longer warranted. If Governor Palin accepts the apology, which she did, the public claim is over. In order for any boycott to be effective, it must have a goal which, upon reaching of the goal, ends the boycott. Consumers tend not to accept open ended boycotts, and in this case the underlying reason for the boycott is essentially over.

    Second, the site is calling for a secondary boycott, and those just do not work. If consumers want to boycott the Letterman show, then they will simply not watch the show. Fred Taub, President of Boycott Watch commented "Calls for secondary boycott usually indicate failure of primary boycott attempts."

    If low ratings occur, then the show will lose revenue and the show may even lose money. Still, Embassy Suites was first to comment with the following statement: "The Letterman issue is one between CBS and the Governor and her family. As part of our ongoing advertising buy, we have ads that appear on a rotation through hundreds of web sites, including at times. These ads should not be viewed as an endorsement of either side of the issue. When a number of our guests complained about advertisements on, we temporarily removed the ads from our rotation rather than become part of the controversy. This action should not be viewed as an endorsement of either side, but rather a desire to let the parties resolve the issue independently."

    Embassy Suites played the Political Correctness card by quickly pulling their ads, but they also make made the mistake in their statement. Fred Taub, President of Boycott commented on the Embassy Suites statement: "By stating 'these ads should not be viewed as an endorsement of either side of the issue,' Embassy Suites gave validity to what Mr. Letterman has already apologized for, which makes no sense. While removing the ads temporarily was a good move, Embassy Suites also created a moral equivalency claim by later stating their actions 'should not be viewed as an endorsement of either side.' Would Embassy Suites have seen another side to the famous Imus slur?"

    Fred Taub points out that most businesses have no idea how to respond to boycott calls. Mr. Taub further stated "The Embassy Suites statement as a perfect example of a company rushing to make a statement, probably at the advice of a PR agency, which clearly knows nothing about and has no experience with boycotts. This statement may even hurt Embassy Suites."

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