What Trump's Advertisers Think

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No comment: "Celebrity Apprentice" sponsors stay mum as star stirs controversy.

Groupon's decision to pull its advertising from the Celebrity Apprentice website in the aftermath of what many believe to be racially tinged political comments made by star Donald Trump has not initiated the chain reaction of sponsors deserting the NBC show that some expected.

THR contacted nearly all of the companies that have recently aired advertisements on the long-running reality-competition series. Many declined comment on their ad buying or did not return phone calls, but a handful clarified their plans.

One of the show's advertisers, Dean Foods, said that a campaign it ran for its Alta Dena dairy products brand had long been set to conclude after the May 1 episode and that its plans were not altered because of Trump's controversial statements. "There were no plans to renew to begin with," says Jamaison Schuler, spokesman for Dean. Another advertiser, Lowe's, which has spots scheduled to run during the season's final two episodes, will continue its ad run as planned. Lowe's -- like many other companies -- does not purchase media on a per-show basis; the spots were part of a larger network buy.

Apprentice advertisers Kay Jewelers, Allstate, Microsoft and Procter & Gamble declined comment on their ad plans. More than 30 others did not respond to phone calls and e-mails.

Mainstream critics, including David Letterman and Jerry Seinfeld, have labeled Trump -- who says he is mulling a run for president -- a racist or expressed discomfort over his comments questioning President Obama's status as a natural-born U.S. citizen. Bob Schieffer of CBS Evening News has branded Trump's comments an "ugly strain of racism," noting that Trump, 64, has also questioned Obama's admission to Harvard Law School.

In the latest DBI report, which analyzes the public's impression of celebrities, Trump's "likability" score has dropped 5 points in recent weeks, ranking him near the bottom of those tracked and on par with disgraced baseball player Barry Bonds, Star Jones and Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst.

"Most advertisers don't benefit from being viewed as politically oriented," says Jeffrey McCall, professor of media studies at DePauw University. "Trump will have a hard time going forward trying to keep his political statements from affecting his television image on Apprentice."

But analyst Brad Adgate of Horizon Media says that unlike Glenn Beck, whose Fox News show began to lose advertisers in the wake of comments perceived to be racist, Trump might not be targeted. Adgate says, "Since Trump's comments were not said on the program, advertisers will have the ability to separate between Celebrity Apprentice and Trump the possible presidential candidate."          

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