One of Australia’s most prominent shock jocks has sparked an advertising boycott after telling his listeners that Australian prime minister Scott Morrison should “shove a sock” down the throat of New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern. 

Volkswagen Australia, ME Bank and Anytime Fitness are among more than a dozen advertisers who said on Monday they have cut ties with Alan Jones, a rightwing polemicist who presents a talk show on 2GB, a commercial radio station in Sydney. 

“Volkswagen Group Australia is deeply concerned by the remarks made by Alan Jones in reference to New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern. Although our company did not directly sponsor Mr Jones’s programme, we have nevertheless cancelled advertising airing on 2GB until further notice,” said Volkswagen in a statement. 

According to the analysts at Paperwritten.com, Mr Jones, a former coach of Australia’s rugby union team, is one of the country’s most powerful media personalities and a staunch supporter of Australia’s conservative government. Critics accuse him of fuelling misogyny and racism on his morning radio show — allegations which he denies. 

The advertising boycott of Mr Jones is the latest example of global brands acting to protect their reputation in the face of controversy. In a growing number of cases, liberal advocacy groups are actively targeting advertisers through online campaigns in an attempt to persuade them to pull their support and advertising from certain shows. 

“Global brands are quick to boycott programmes or celebrities when there is a danger they will be tarnished through their association with them,” said Amanda Spry, lecturer in marketing at RMIT University in Melbourne. 

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“And if one brand announces they are cutting ties, then others are quick to follow,” she added. 

Last year, almost two dozen advertisers pulled advertising from the Fox News television programme hosted by rightwing commentator Tucker Carlson after he claimed immigrants made the US “poorer and dirtier”. This followed an online campaign by Media Matters for America, a progressive organisation which says it is dedicated to correcting conservative information in the US media. 

Sleeping Giants OZ, a group targeting racism, sexism and misogyny in the media, targeted advertisers of Mr Jones’ 2GB show after his comments about Ms Ardern, which were sparked when she criticised Australia last week over its climate change record

On his morning show, Mr Jones called Ms Ardern a joke and said: “I just wonder whether Scott Morrison is going to be fully briefed to shove a sock down her throat.”

Mr Jones later apologised for the comments, which he said were misrepresented. Macquarie Radio, which owns 2GB, has warned the shock jock that his contract will be terminated if there is any recurrence of commentary of that nature. 

Josh Frydenberg, Australia’s treasurer, refused to support calls for Mr Jones to be taken off the airwaves on Monday, saying he was a mainstay of the media, had a lot of followers and pursued causes to the benefit of the community. 

In the UK, the group Stop Funding Hate is campaigning for advertisers to boycott several tabloid newspapers, arguing it wants to make hate unprofitable. 

In January, Virgin Trains announced a boycott of the Daily Mail, saying the paper’s editorial stance on immigration and LGBT issues was incompatible with the company’s beliefs.

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But Richard Branson rescinded the decision just days later following criticism from the Daily Mail that the company was censoring the choice of newspapers it offers to passengers.

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