Duck Men

A Cynical Look at How A&E Played it Right in the Media

The Ducky Dynasty stew has all the right ingredients for a spicy dinner debate: celebrity, outrageous comments and subsequent outrage. As the controversy heated up on social media, A&E came up with a near-perfect recipe for saving its treasured franchise, but not necessarily for what some would consider to be the right reasons.

By now, you’ve probably read the comments made by Ducky Dynasty’s Phil Robertson in a recent interview with GQ Magazine. From a marketing and branding perspective, the remarks were simply dumb and yet another example of how one interview can cost a company or individuals millions of dollars.

The only question for Robertson and his family is how many millions of dollars this interview will cost them. If Duck Dynasty continues to fly, the Robertson’s should thank A&E for making a smart media move by suspending the Dynasty patriarch.

A&E took a proactive approach in handling the expected fallout by suspending Robertson indefinitely, which made business sense for a number of reasons. Had the network simply issued a statement saying Robertson’s views did not reflect those of A&E, the public outcry would have been greater than it already is, leading to stronger protests and more petitions. Conversely, had the network executives fired Robertson, they would have been slaying their golden goose, one of the highest-rated reality TV shows of all time.

Suspending Robertson was the perfect decoy for A&E. It shows action on the part of the network while at the same time buying A&E time to measure sustained fallout and allow Robertson’s team to work with him on a proper response. An “indefinite” suspension allows the network to show outrage that reflects that of the general public without killing the franchise that has netted a fortune.

While the network’s apparent indignation might seem transparent and disingenuous to some, it will probably assuage the public thirst for Duck blood. (It’s difficult to believe A&E wasn’t aware of Robertson’s controversial opinions on race and homosexuality before the GQ interview since he has been recorded on more than one occasion making similar comments in public settings.)

A&E ‘s motive for taking disciplinary action is questionable but it was the right move toward smoothing ruffled feathers and saving a dynasty.