June 8, 2016
Buzzfeed announces an “unprecedented” Trump ad ban
by Julia Fleischaker
On Monday morning, editors at BuzzFeed announced that the media company would be terminating an ad campaign booked through the Republican National Committee for the Donald Trump campaign. In a post on their site, Buzzfeed’s deputy political editor Kyle Blaine elaborated:
BuzzFeed has terminated a deal with the Republican National Committee to run political advertisements in the fall, the company’s CEO, Jonah Peretti, informed employees Monday morning.
In an email, Peretti cited Donald Trump’s rhetoric and campaign promises as the reason for the decision to terminate the buy, worth $1.3 million according to a source who spoke with Politico.
“Earlier today, BuzzFeed informed the RNC that we would not accept Trump for President ads and that we would be terminating our agreement with them,” Peretti said. “The Trump campaign is directly opposed to the freedoms of our employees in the United States and around the world and in some cases, such as his proposed ban on international travel for Muslims, would make it impossible for our employees to do their jobs.”
Peretti likened the ad ban to a similar ban on cigarette ads. “We don’t run cigarette ads because they are hazardous to our health, and we won’t accept Trump ads for the exact same reason.”
The decision has been met with some criticism, and some praise, but mostly confusion — about the ethics of it, and about the idea of, gasp, turning down ad money. In a Washington Post story, Buzzfeed’s unprecedented Donald Trump ad ban baffles the news biz, Callum Borchers asks, “Who in the penny-pinching media world says no to $1.3 million?” Not many, that’s who.
“I can’t imagine turning down that kind of money for any reason,” said Jake Berube, senior advertising accounts executive at the Daily Caller, a conservative news website. “I’d literally name my first-born ‘Bernie Clinton’ for $1.3 million.”
Opinion among others Borchers spoke to in the media was mixed.
“On principle, I believe it is unwise for any media operation that views itself as fair and independent to issue a total block against one candidate’s advertising, notably a major-party candidate for president,” said Dave Hunke, former publisher of USA Today….
On the left, the liberal magazine the Nation — which notably bestowed just the third primary endorsement in its history on Bernie Sanders — said it, too, would gladly do business with the RNC or the Trump campaign.
All of this commentary ignores a major point, though, as the New York Times Magazine editor Willy Staley points out on Twitter.
People forget this sometimes: A pro-Trump ad on BuzzFeed would take the form of an ARTICLE about what a fantastic president he would make.
— willy (@willystaley) June 7, 2016
Staley went on to write that a stark difference like that makes Buzzfeed’s Trump decision an easy one, but “raises questions about all the decisions leading up to it.” Presumably, some of those questionable decisions include producing this and this.
Julia Fleischaker is a former director of marketing and publicity at Melville House.