Realizing it's in danger of tarnishing its hip cred, online travel site Kayak is trying to distance itself from Lowe's and Christian activist organization The Florida Family Association as they boycott the TLC show All American Muslim. Since declaring the removal of its ads from the program because of the FFA's lobbying efforts of the "clear and present danger" to all things America, Lowe's and the FFA have gotten plenty of backlash, as we noted this morning. Kayak, a Web 2.0 company with presumably a good amount of young, liberal-minded users, doesn't want any of that and has issued an apology note this afternoon titled "We Handled This Poorly" after it decided to stop advertising with the show, too.
The note itself is telling of just how much Kayak doesn't want to sound like the out-of-touch Lowe's people. Instead of devolving into boring PR speak, Robert Birge, Kayak's chief marketing officer, writes a heart-felt, personalized apology for offending Kayak's customers. And as his reasoning for opting out of advertising with TLC he employs kid speak, saying the show "sucked." Birge also clarifies that Kayak ads will continue to run this season. But that next season, Kayak will not renew the contract.
Yet, Kayak isn't really all that different from Lowe's. Birge bookends the apology with liberal-toned talking points, hoping to restore faith in the company's cool, but still doesn't want to associate with the show. At the beginning he explains that Kayak had at first decided to advertise alongside the program "because we adamantly support tolerance and diversity." And then he plops that "suck" comment at the end. But in the middle we get the real juice: Kayak offended some of its customers because it associated with a show that "riskly hides the Muslim agenda," as the FFA says. Their move actually did have something to do with the nature of the show's content, which follows Muslim Americans in Michigan.
When we decided to give our money to TLC for this program, we deemed the show a worthy topic. When we received angry emails regarding our decision to advertise, I looked into the show more thoroughly.
The first thing I discovered was that TLC was not upfront with us about the nature of this show. As I said, it's a worthy topic, but any reasonable person would know that this topic is a particular lightning rod. We believe TLC went out of their way to pick a fight on this, and they didn't let us know their intentions. That's not a business practice that generally gets repeat business from us. I also believe that it did this subject a grave disservice. Sadly, TLC is now enjoying the attention from this controversy.
To clarify: this is the same position that doesn't make sense to a lot of Lowe's critics. It makes more sense that a North Carolina based hardware store would be so out of touch. But an Internet company? Even Kayak's own doesn't understand the position. "Can't believe they pulled their ads...Lowe's in Facebook Hell as Racist Comments Pile Up," tweeted Jessica Antonellis, Kayak's PR contact, according to our commenter Kokkyo Minami. (Antonellis has since deleted the tweet.)