There's no sign of advertisers boycotting CBS, despite a mounting list of disturbing allegations against CEO Les Moonves

Michael Seto/Business InsiderCBS CEO Les Moonves at Business Insider Ignition 2015
  • Don’t expect an ad boycott of CBS any time soon – despite recently-reported sexual misconduct allegations made by multiple women toward CBS CEO Les Moonves, including claims of forcible touching or kissing.
  • Advertisers don’t seem inclined to react to this situation the same way they have reacted to reports of alleged sexual misconduct by on air talent, like former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly.
  • Plus, there seems to be little outside pressure to pull ads from CBS (at least for now).

Verizon, Progressive Insurance, Pfizer, Lowe’s, Geico, Walmart and McDonald’s are some of TV’s biggest advertisers.

So far, a source says, none of them are cutting back spending on CBS.

That’s despite serious allegations of sexual misconduct against CEO Les Moonves – including multiple accounts of Moonves forcibly touching women at the network – and one account of him pinning down an actress and kissing her.

In fact, it’s “business as usual” at CBS and no advertisers have asked to pull spending from the network, a person familiar with the matter said. Two top advertising agencies also said none of their clients have pulled money from CBS.

On Friday, the New Yorker’s Ronan Farrow published a bombshell report of an investigation into Moonves’ alleged behaviour spanning multiple decades. In it, six women accused the executive of sexual misconduct, retaliation and unwanted advances. NBC News then reported that a woman had gone to Los Angeles police claiming three instances of misconduct.The NBC News report states that it is unknown whether the woman who went to the LA police is among those who spoke to The New Yorker.

But Farrow has since tweeted that the report appears to stem from allegations not included in The New Yorker story:

CBS’ board of directors reportedly spent the weekend figuring out how to handle the Les Moonves report. For now, it has decided to keep him on and open an investigation into the claims through independent outside counsel.

The media skewered CBS for the decision, but advertisers don’t seem inclined to punish CBS.

Business Insider reached out to several of the top TV advertisers, including Verizon, Pfizer, Progressive Insurance, Lowe’s, Geico, Walmart and McDonald’s.

Verizon declined to comment. A spokesman for Universal Pictures said: “We are not planning to pull spending at this time.”

The rest did not respond to inquiries about their CBS spending.

Brands apparently don’t view the Moonves allegations in the same way as ones that led to other recent ad kerfuffles

Advertisers have pulled their money in other #metoo situations.Former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, for example, lost more than half of his show’s advertisers in the week following a report on his alleged behaviour.

But Moonves isn’t on TV. In fact, most Americans probably don’t know who he is, even though he is one of the highest-paid corporate executives in the world, pulling in about $US70 million in 2017.

And brands likely don’t see advertising their products during popular CBS shows, like “The Big Bang Theory” or “NCIS,” as an endorsement of Moonves.

Plus, it’s a lot easier for a brand to request that its ads get moved out of a particular show to other shows on a network (which happened during the O’Reilly incident, as well as the short term advertiser boycott of Fox News’ host Laura Ingraham) than to ditch an entire network.

Especially the highest-rated broadcast network in the US.

For an advertiser that might need to drive people to its stores, going dark on CBS and temporarily taking away the reach of its message could actually hurt its business.

Big Bang theoryCBSCBS’ hit show, ‘The Big Bang Theory.’

Advertisers aren’t always inclined to take the moral high ground unless they feel pressured to

The harsh truth is that advertisers aren’t always inclined to make media buying decisions because they want to make a statement or feel like they are ‘doing the right thing.”

Sometimes it takes being publicly shamed before they will take action. Right now, that outside pressure is lacking.

For example, Sleeping Giants, a social media advocacy group that has pressured brands to yank money before, has yet to weigh in on Moonves.

In fact, the advocacy group told Business Insider it’s taking a wait and see approach as CBS’ internal investigation proceeds. “We’ll keep pressing for answers, though, if it goes on too long,” said a spokesperson.

For now, the CBS board will proceed with its investigation into the Moonves allegations. Future business might actually look pretty bright.

The broadcast TV industry, CBS included, just closed a killer upfront ad sales season, locking down roughly $US10 billion in sales for the upcoming season, according to Variety.

CBS even pushed for big prices increases, Variety reported.

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