It remains to be seen whether advertisers will care as much as everyone else did about what Jeff Bezos had to say about The National Enquirer yesterday. But that might be a different story if legal action is taken against the publisher.
With presumptuous headlines like Prince Harry telling his brother “It’s Hell at Home!” or profiles on business leaders detailing “What These Billionaires Are Hiding!” The National Enquirer has managed to maintain advertisers despite operating under extremely questionable ethical circumstances.
American Media, Inc. (AMI), the parent company of The National Enquirer and other titles like Us Weekly, Star, OK!, In Touch and Life & Style, released a statement today that didn’t deny the company tried to blackmail Bezos. Instead, it said it stood by the so-called reporting into his alleged affair and that it would launch a full investigation into Bezos’ claims.
The statement didn’t convince at least one former employee.
“Who in their right mind would ever believe that statement?” asked Stu Zakim, who used to be the spokesperson for AMI.
Zakim said he initially laughed when he read Bezos’ post, which detailed the communication his lawyers had with AMI. “When did common sense leave the roost? You don’t go after the richest man in the world and bully him and not expect to get exposed,” Zakim said.
“Louche” behavior is to be expected from The National Enquirer and its parent company, which is its brand equity, said Brian Sheehan, professor of advertising at SI Newhouse School of Public Communications, in an email.
But the serious crimes waged against the company might take it to a different level, he noted. “It is much harder for advertisers to turn a blind eye to this kind of behavior without tainting their own brands,” Sheehan said.