Kyle Sandilands furore says more about

consumers than advertisers

The notion of commercial or celebrity brands having any relevance or impact on the reality and integrity of who I really am, seems at first glance superficial and somewhat off-putting…however I contend that our brand interactions everyday reveal a deeper layer of what our values truly are…

There has been much comment, controversy and drama around Kyle Sandilands’ comments about a person who dared to negatively review his new TV program. When faced with a huge social media backlash, this provoked moral outrage by many advertisers who insisted on demonstrating their ‘brand integrity’ by cancelling advertising with 2DAYFM.

Social media commentators then took the advertisers to task, correctly pointing out that Sandilands was in fact being completely on-brand – he is known for outrageous, offensive and sometimes misogynistic remarks. One social media commenter Laurel Papworth  went so far as to label the companies that advertised on Sandilands show as ‘hypocrites’ – they knew full well that Sandilands is likely to do something offensive and unpredictable – that is part of his brand AND it is part of why he has a strong niche audience.

As Papworth states – the issue at stake is the match, or mis-match, of purpose and values. To place advertising on a show where the values do not align with what your brand stands for is high risk and will most likely lead to major brand fall-out as this issue dramatically demonstrates.

This is where commercial intention – reaching an audience in order to sell more of a product may well undermine brand trust and credibility. In this era of ever increasing connectivity and open comment, I believe every person and every organisation, has a responsibility to act with a level of awareness and be conscious in all their actions. If I advertise with this particular program or person, what are the benefits and what are the possible risks, and when I weigh them up, what is the best course of action for my brand?

Of course Sandilands does not have to be aware or conscious of anything or take personal responsibility – again that is part of his brand, blaming others and having a tantrum when he feels unfairly criticised is simply Kyle being Kyle. And this is what his audience tunes into; they know what to expect and they like the banter, rudeness and stinging judgements. On some level there is a resonance for the audience or a macabre interest in what faux pas will he commit next?

And that’s the deeper layer of this saga – it is actually us the listening, watching, consuming public who determine what turns up on our screens, via radio, from social media and all the other channels. These ‘celebrity brands’ do not exist in a vacuum – they are built through appealing to a particular audience.

From a brand trust perspective, audiences can trust Sandilands to deliver outrageous and offensive remarks – that is his trademark style – and powerful brands have a well recognised trademark. Scandal sells, and Sandilands is a master at igniting scandal. In fact some commentators predict his listenership will increase with all the publicity – and that in turn will attract new advertisers and probably a return of some of those who have expressed disapproval and cancelled advertising contracts.

So, in the end it is all about us, about the consumers’ personal brand and integrity – do we want to be associated with and part of a brand like Sandilands? Does it matter to us – what he says, who he is rude to and how he acts? We have a clear choice here and it does indeed say something about who we are – our choices everyday are powerful and far reaching and when we choose to be part of something scandalous, even as a voyeuristic bystander, qualifying our involvement by saying ‘Oh I hate him, he’s so bad, but it’s good to listen to’ we are prioritising our value of enjoying the salacious and unsavoury over other values – and that’s OK. However let’s be honest about that, rather than taking some high moral ground. If it really mattered enough to enough people there wouldn’t be an audience and the advertisers would have no-one to reach. It’s not sufficient to register your protest at #vilekyle and then continue to listen – we have to actually show it matters by changing behaviour and no longer tuning in – and that will be the real sign of where our values lie.

By Fiona Pearman