The fallout from Rush Limbaugh’s radio tirade against Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke has left advertisers reeling, and one company has filed a lawsuit after its name was incorrectly pulled into the controversy.
The AP reports that Humana, a Kentucky-based health care parent company to Concentra Health Services, filed an injunction on Thursday against Preval Group after the Portland-based company advertised a memory aid pill called Concentra (no relation to Humana) on Limbaugh’s show.
According to the complaint, Humana is asking Preval both to stop using the name Concentra, and for damages from the incensed backlash from consumers who were under the false impression that Humana endorsed Limbaugh throughout the controversy.
This is a problem that Preval should have seen coming a mile away.
Humana found out Preval was marketing its version of Concentra in the fall of 2011. According to the complaint, Humana sent a cease and desist letter in November, and Preval assured the company that it was “winding down” its use of Concentra and depleting its inventory of the pill, primarily marketed in Texas. So Humana gave Preval a break.
“Winding down” was Preval’s code for increasing its marketing, the complaint alleges. Preval went on to advertise Concentra nationally (“specifically, at least on the Rush Limbaugh show”) and has seen an increase of traffic on its website by 325 per cent since January, the complaint says.
Preval advertised Concentra on Limbaugh’s show on March 5, the day that advertisers started pulling their spots en masse.
Humana’s lawsuit claims that “Preval knew that its advertisements on the Rush Limbaugh show would garner widespread attention at a time when this show and the placement of advertisements thereon were a national controversy widely discussed in the media.”
A hailstorm of negative press and customer reaction on Twitter and Facebook triggered at least 50 advertisers to pull their spots from Limbaugh’s show after the conservative host called Fluke a “prostitute” and a “slut” for advocating for birth control coverage in healthcare plans.
Domino’s, for example, individually responded to 3,500 Tweets, e-mails, and Facebook messages from angry consumers after one of its ads ran on Limbaugh’s show, apparently without the company’s knowledge.
Some blogs have provided links to Humana’s Concentra website and Twitter account even though Preval is the sponsor, not Humana.
Concentra Health Services Vice President for Marketing Nancy Buttyan said that almost all of the backlash has been negative. She has responded individually to angry consumers’ messages, including one from a Kentucky customer who declared, “I will stop using your services.”
Humana and Preval did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
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