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Applebee’s pauses CNN ads after ill-timed dancing cowboy interrupts Ukraine coverage

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By Hannah Bowler | Journalist

February 25, 2022 | 4 min read

Applebee’s has paused its advertising on CNN after an ill-timed ad was placed in its live coverage of the Ukraine invasion. While the dancing cowboy spot was fiercely criticized on social media, Applebee’s decision to withdraw its ad dollars has sparked debate.

The fast-food chain said it was “disappointed” in the actions of CNN and is “deeply concerned about the situation in Ukraine” after CNN scheduled a picture-in-picture fried chicken ad next to the headline “Russia invades Ukraine.”

Viewers took to Twitter to call out Applebee’s for misjudging the tone with the restaurant shouldering most of the backlash. The clip has since been shared thousands of times, with some Twitter clips racking up 3.6m views.

CNN places Applebee's ad in live coverage of the Russian invasion of Ukraine

CNN placed Applebee’s ad in live coverage of the Russian invasion of Ukraine

Applebee’s statement has been challenged by some who say ad spend is paying for CNN’s reporting of the conflict. Paul Bannister, chief brand strategy officer at Café Media, said to defund journalism at this time was “messed up.” Meanwhile the editor of Morning Brew, Josh Sternberg, added Applebee’s should have said it was “proud” for supporting journalism.

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Live news viewing was up nearly four times higher than average on Thursday evening. UK networks like Sky News peaked at 722,000 compared with just 140,000 the previous day, and GB News racked up 150,000 viewers for its coverage compared with a peak of 60,000 on Wednesday evening.

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