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Companies pull ads in wake of boar killing

Disney, Denny's, GNC and M&M/Mars join others in yanking their spots off 98 Rock.

A growing number of companies, including Disney World Resorts, Denny's, M&M/Mars and GNC, have dropped their ads from the Bubba the Love Sponge Show or from his station WXTB-FM 97.9 (98 Rock) after learning that a wild boar was killed during a show promotion in the station's parking lot last month.

GNC, a national vitamin retailer, pulled all of its advertising from the station.

"GNC does not condone such acts of violence and had GNC been made aware of such programming, it would not have advertised with the station initially," said company spokeswoman Roberta Gaffga.

Disney, candymaker M&M/Mars, Steven Spielberg's GameWorks video/restaurant chain, Internet music site CDnow, Denny's restaurants and Florida Metropolitan University also have pulled ads.

Disney never advertised on Bubba's morning show, but pulled its ads from other WXTB programs.

"The station's content doesn't meet our family content needs," said Disney spokesman Craig Dezern.

Denny's, which aired two ads on the Bubba the Love Sponge Show Feb. 27, the day the boar was killed, has since pulled all its spots from the station.

"We don't tolerate any cruelty to animals and as an advertiser we look for a station to have the integrity to address issues and never air offensive programming," said Denny's spokeswoman Debbie Atkins.

WXTB general manager Dan DiLoreto would not comment on Thursday. On Feb. 28, DiLoreto, who is Bubba's boss, issued a memo apologizing to Clear Channel staff who were offended "by the visual (the killing) created."

Some of the pressure on advertisers has come from animal rights groups such as People for the Ethical Treatment for Animals and Animals Deserve Absolute Protection Today and Tomorrow.

ADAPTT has been calling WXTB advertisers since the day after the boar was killed. The group intends to keep up the campaign until Clear Channel Communications, the owner of WXTB and seven other stations in the Tampa Bay area, prohibits all animal stunts.

The group has posted the names of advertisers on its Web site, and noted which have discontinued ads. Burdines, Clearwater Mitsubishi and TGIF restaurants also are among those the group listed, but did not return phone calls Thursday to confirm whether they dropped their ads.

ADAPTT spokeswoman Karen Lybrand vowed to keep pressuring advertisers. "We will continue to hit Clear Channel where it hurts the most: the pocket," Lybrand said.

Because advertising is often purchased from corporate headquarters, many companies aren't aware of a station's specific programming when they agree to advertise on it.

"I don't think anybody necessarily was asking to be on the Bubba the Love Sponge Show, but it was part of the audience they wanted to reach," said Ron Rodrigues, editor of Radio & Record, an industry trade journal. "The last thing advertisers want to be involved in is trying to sell their product via a controversial medium."

But with WXTB's strong ratings, it may have no problem attracting new advertisers. Among radio's most lucrative audience, listeners ages 25-54, Bubba's show ranks No. 2 in the Tampa Bay market. Overall, WXTB ranks third in the market among that age group.

"If they have an audience listening to that station," Rodrigues said, "then there will be an advertiser somewhere who will want to reach that audience."