• Olive Garden Asserts It Did Not Pull Letterman Ads
  • July 15, 2009
  • Law Firm: Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP - Los Angeles Office
  • While the Olive Garden restaurant chain may have found David Letterman’s joke about Alaska Governor Sarah Palin’s daughter to be in poor taste, it denies reports that it pulled future advertisements from airing during The Late Show with David Letterman as a result.

    Olive Garden spokesman Rich Jeffers described a report by Andy Barr, posted on Policito.com, that the chain was “canceling all its booked ads” on Letterman’s show for the rest of 2009 as “erroneous.” In a statement, Jeffers explained that Olive Garden’s schedule of ads during The Late Show, which was scheduled months in advance, had simply been completed earlier last month.

    Olive Garden’s supposed decision to pull the ads kept alive the Letterman/Palin controversy, which began over a joke Letterman made about Palin’s daughter being propositioned by former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer and “knocked up” by Alex Rodriguez. In response, the Palin camp was quick to denounce Letterman for making such comments about Governor Palin’s youngest daughter. Letterman later clarified that his comments were directed to the Governor’s older daughter whose unplanned teen pregnancy garnered a great deal of media attention.

    After Governor Palin accepted Letterman’s public apology, it seemed the controversy had run its course. Then Politico.com reported that Olive Garden was pulling its ads and apologizing if “Mr. Letterman’s mistake, which was not consistent with our standards and values, left you with a bad impression of Olive Garden.” Although Olive Garden was quick to correct the report, noting that “[n]o authorized spokesperson for the company confirmed the information” in it, the company did state that it takes all “guest concerns seriously” and “will factor those concerns in” when planning its future advertising schedule.

    Why it matters: The brouhaha over Olive Garden’s purported reaction over David Letterman’s joke demonstrates how quickly information – or misinformation – can travel across the Internet. It also shows how advertisers can be affected by the content of the shows they sponsor. Indeed, in the wake of Letterman’s joke, groups called for consumers to boycott not only the show, but also its sponsors. While advertisers may be able to screen some of the programs during which their ads air, as was the case with Letterman’s show, this is not always an option.