Ad on Rush Limbaugh featuring Belk creates online stir

elyportillo@charlotteobserver.comMay 15, 2013 

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Charlotte-based Belk Inc. found itself in the middle of an online battle between political partisans this week, when an ad featuring the company ran on conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh’s radio program.

The fight highlights the fine line companies walk with advertising and social media.

The ad featuring Belk was apparently first noticed Monday by a group on Facebook that monitors Rush Limbaugh’s advertisers in an effort to pressure the talk show host financially. On Tuesday, the liberal website Daily Kos mentioned the ad in a posting.

People started posting messages on Belk’s Facebook page protesting the ad. “I cannot support or recommend your business to my relatives in the South while you sponsor the Rush Limbaugh show,” wrote Heather Santiago, in a comment on the retailer’s page.

Tuesday morning, Belk posted a message on the Facebook page explaining that it doesn’t advertise with Rush Limbaugh, and the ad was run by one of the company’s vendors as part of a new campaign. “We’ve asked the vendor to pull the ads featuring Belk from The Rush Limbaugh Show going forward,” the company wrote.

Belk spokeswoman Jessica Graham told the Observer that the department store company doesn’t advertise on talk radio at all, conservative or liberal, and the company was surprised by the Facebook messages about an ad on Limbaugh’s show.

“We thought it was odd,” Graham said. “We wanted to clarify that it was not a Belk ad.”

Graham declined to identify the vendor who ran the ad in question.

But the company’s move Tuesday appeared to only stoke the online fires. By Wednesday afternoon, Belk’s Facebook post had attracted more than 1,100 comments, many from conservatives incensed that the company was not advertising with Limbaugh. Belk’s page was also bombarded by more partisan postings.

“Going to cut the Belk card now …” wrote Facebook user Anne Dalton.

“I am a Belk preferred customer who will think twice about ever shopping there again due to you singling out Rush. Shame on you,” wrote Keith Mooney.

Graham said Belk wasn’t targeting Limbaugh’s show when it asked the vendor to stop running the ad in question.

“This is why we don’t advertise on talk radio,” said Graham. Observer Researcher Maria David contributed.

Portillo: 704-358-5041 On Twitter @ESPortillo