Maximum Fun is an audience-supported, values-driven network. Our shows are free for all to enjoy, and we rely heavily on community support – primarily in the form of ongoing monthly memberships from the MaxFun audience. We also make some money from advertising. Our network and our shows prefer to have membership revenue: it keeps us accountable to our audience, and is typically more reliable than advertising. But ad revenue is an important supplementary source of income, particularly in times when the budgets of our members might be under strain.
Because we are bolstered by the support of our community, we are able to turn down advertising that doesn’t fit our network, like ads for companies that promote gambling or weapons. We also don’t require our shows to accept advertising – they can opt in or out as they see fit. If a sponsor seems acceptable to Maximum Fun, then we will send it to hosts for their approval before we book any ads.
When an advertiser’s business model exploits employees, negatively impacts society, or conflicts with our understanding of what makes the world a better place, we decline advertising from that brand.
Cases where a brand is itself unethical are relatively straightforward, but other situations are more complicated. These commonly occur when a brand is associated with another entity that is problematic. In general, we will assess how close the association is, and the practical impact that our ad policy might have on the practices in question. Examples include:
(a) When an advertiser also runs ads on a different platform which we don’t agree with. In these instances, we’re sometimes asked to refuse the advertiser until they stop advertising on that platform. In talking to ad buyers, advertisers, and activists, we haven’t ever encountered cases where this kind of pressure (to effectively refuse to take an advertiser’s money) would be effective. Advertisers typically only commit a small portion of their marketing budget to podcasts, and we receive a small piece of that; they won’t notice if this sliver of ad spend goes away. We’d only be harming our shows and our network.
(b) When an advertiser shares corporate ownership with a different brand that engages in activities we don’t approve of. Generally, we feel we can only be responsible for the specific brand we’re promoting. The reason is mostly practical: some corporations have literally dozens of brands associated with them, and new acquisitions happen every week, especially among the startups that advertise on podcasts. We don’t have the resources to monitor or police the activities of all of these associated brands.
(c) When a member of the advertiser’s executive team makes a personal statement or takes a stance that we object to. This situation involves the most variables, so we don’t have any hard-and-fast rules for it. The key factors are: how egregious the executive’s behavior is; whether it’s a stance they maintain or express contrition for; and how closely they are associated with the operations of the brand.
Occasionally information will come to light that will make us reconsider brands after we have already contracted to advertise with them. Often, these contracts are written up to a year in advance, and cancelling them would jeopardize our relationships with the ad agencies that are responsible for the majority of podcast advertising. Because cancelling spots will adversely impact not only the show running the ad but all shows on the network, we often choose to, instead, complete the contract but not renew it. In some extreme and rare cases, where the brand’s behavior is clearly harmful, we will cancel already-booked spots.
Maximum Fun tries to keep advertising to a minimum on our shows and to book ads for companies that will resonate with our audience. We are continually researching and evaluating what brands will work best for our audience and shows. If you have any concerns about ads we are currently running, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can look into it.