Breitbart declares war on Kellogg’s after brand pulls advertising

So-called “alt right” news website Breitbart is asking its readers to boycott Kellogg’s after the brand said it was going to pull ads from its website.

The site, which says it receives 45 million monthly readers (comScore estimates it attracted 19.2 million readers in October), said that Kellogg’s decision to drop the site from its rotation of advertising represents an “escalation in the war by leftist companies … against conservative customers whose values propelled Donald Trump into the White House.” 

The site is also posting news articles alongside the boycott post saying that Kellogg’s is complicit in child labor abuses, citing an Amnesty International report on companies that use palm oil made on plantations overseas. Breitbart had never previously expressed concerns over where Kellogg’s got its palm oil. 

An agency executive, under condition of anonymity, said that Breitbart’s move is tantamount to shakedown — and it will end up warning off future advertisers.

“It sets a horrible precedent and is a huge deterrent to future advertisers,” this person said. “They are essentially extorting their advertisers with the threat of boycott and bad press if you reduce your budget or decide to pull your ads.”

Kellogg isn’t the only one to drop Breitbart from its advertising rotation — last week, Digiday reported that a number of brands, including AllState, Modcloth, Nest and SoFi have blacklisted the website, which many critics say promotes hate speech, under pressure in social media.

Of course, because of the nature of programmatic advertising, many brands aren’t aware that their ads are being served on Breitbart, which regularly publishes articles that stoke nationalist, racist and anti-Semitic sentiments. Ads end up on sites like Breitbart through third party retargeting by firms like Criteo. Google’s own ad network also places ads all over the Breitbart site.

Last week, in response to social media pressures urging Allstate to drop advertising from Breitbart, the brand admitted as much. In a statement, it said “Unfortunately, the nature of internet buys is such that we are unable to receive full disclosure with regards to all of the websites on which our advertising may run.” Ad tech firm AppNexus also has barred Breitbart News for hate speech.

Political pressure on brands has reached new highs in an unprecedentedly charged climate: New Balance was threatened with a boycott from liberal customers for showing support for Trump’s stance on trade; Chobani’s CEO has come under fire by the far right for being an outspoken critic of Trump’s.

Breitbart, in the post urging its readers to boycott Kellogg’s, said that the brand offered no examples of how its readers don’t align with the brand’s values. It included a list of Kellogg’s brands in the post.

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