Kayak’s Confusing Response to the ‘All-American Muslim’ Debate

Kayak’s chief marketing officer, Robert Birge, writes a blog post entitled “We Handled This Poorly” intended to address the company’s decision not to continue advertising on All-American Muslim — and then proceeds to handle things poorly again. The chain of argument is genuinely bizarre:

First, our approach to advertising decisions is to choose advertising based on who watches it, not the political leaning of the program…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…Lastly, I watched the first two episodes. Mostly, I just thought the show sucked. Based on our dealings with TLC and the simple assessment of the show, I decided we should put our money elsewhere. Apologies again.

I’m really curious as to what Birge thinks TLC promised him. Did he expect a show like 19 and Counting or Kate Plus 8, which presented the families involved straight but with the full expectation that the audience would judge them and treat them with almost anthropological detachment? Did he think it would be servicey, whether of the actual advice variety a la Extreme Couponing, or psychologically, like Freaky Eaters, Strange Sex, or Hoarding: Buried Alive? Or did he, as some of his language suggests, expect a show that endorsed the idea that Islam is in some way strange or other or lesser, rather than affirming that Muslims are very much part of the American community? There is no possible way to interpret All-American Muslim as a show that the network “went out of their way to pick a fight” with, unless you believe the idea that Muslims express their faith in different ways that are compatible with and even reinforce the values of American good citizenship is “a particular lightning rod.”

It really is amazing. There’s a fortune to be made in corporate crisis PR, it seems. Or from distributing large charts about the consuming habits and capacity of Muslim consumers — not to mention their allies of other faiths and no faith. I was on a conference call with a number of the cast members of the show yesterday afternoon, and it sounds like they’re holding up well. “The emails and support I’ve received from Jewish and Christian Americans has been absolutely overwhelming,” Dearborn deputy sheriff Mike Jafaar said. It’s a mystery to me why someone wouldn’t want their brand associated with that kind of classiness — and that kind of market power.