Lowe's Boycott a Lesson in Media Planning
This controversy would've been quite predictable for an experienced media planner. Did Lowe's failure at media planning cause this fracas?
Media planning - not crisis communications? Sure, some PR person will soon write up a case study declaring what the Lowe's PR team did wrong amid the uproar over the company's decision to pull its advertising from the TV show All-American Muslim. To summarize, Muslim groups have organized a boycott of Lowe's as punishment for responding to the demand from a Christian group that the company pull its advertising from the show. I drove by a Lowe's in Pennsylvania yesterday, btw, and saw no protesters (and few customers).
Yet the fatal failure in this fiasco falls not upon the crisis PR response but upon the media planning. If the case for advertising on the show was sound and advanced the interests of the shareholders then at least have the courage to stand by the decision when asked to pull the advertising. Instead, it appears Lowe's caved pretty quickly, likely for fear of a boycott.
If it wasn't a sound decision then the media planning failed and invited the costly controversy. Oh, what little care and consideration seems to be spent in deciding where to advertise! It's unfortunate that in many ad agencies and in-house marketing departments, media recommendations are entrusted to novices who lack the wisdom and experience to understand the ramifications of where their advertising dollars are placed. In fact, it's scary to think how many people at Lowe's with marketing and advertising job titles either never anticipated this situation, or worse, decided not to speak up for fear of appearing less than politically correct.
There is more to smart media planning than just numerical ratings, circulation and impressions. The mere act of supporting a show or publication suggests support for the content regardless of the organization's actual positions, if any. Media planners bear a great responsibility to everyone in an organization that goes beyond delivering the ad message to the right people at the right time at the right place at the lowest cost. If this boycott grows legs and actually hurts Lowe's then stores may be closed and good people put out of work. That's the extended impact of media planning that needs to be carefully considered before media plans are approved and ad space is placed.
For anyone experienced in media planning, the backlash should've been completely predictable.