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October 19, 2015
CBS Refuses 'Truth' Advertising — Smart?
 
It was once said that "no news is good news." Typically that's true; if a big business or brand makes a change or decision without making serious waves, that is usually more of a good thing than bad.

But what if that company or business refuses to do something? And what if that company or brand was a gatekeeper?

Enter CBS Corp.

It was announced a couple of days ago that CBS Corp. is refusing to allow advertising spots for the movie Truth on any of its stations. The movie is a story about a couple of journalists who believe CBS got rid of journalists in order to protect the interests of the company and its parent company, Viacom.

Was this a smart move for CBS?

It's an interesting spot. On one hand, if CBS allows the advertising, we are sure that the company would think it is shedding negative light on itself. On the other hand, refusing to allow Sony to advertise is restricting information from the public, denying them an opportunity to learn about the movie and make the decision whether or not to see it. Allowing the advertising does not equate to endorsement.

Plus, what a cool testament it could have been for CBS if they had readily accepted the advertising and said nothing, offensively or defensively, about the movie. Having a CBS spokesperson come out to say — because they would eventually be asked to comment — that everyone has an opinion about history, and we are not the company to decide which opinion is right, could have been a pretty cool story.

Now CBS is being criticized and poked at for trying to hide the movie and the events it covered.

Was this a smart move for CBS?

It's hard to say. Clearly there were better hands to play, but perhaps CBS figured that protecting the brand at all costs was the most important thing. Besides, turning it down probably got Truth talked about more than any ad on the network.

In that case, well done, CBS.

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Dwayne W. Waite Jr. is partner and principal at JDW: The Charlotte Agency, a marketing and advertising shop in Charlotte, NC. He enjoys consumer behavior, economics, and football.
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