The increasingly messy (and expensive) divorce action between the National Rifle Association and their soon-to-be-former longtime PR and marketing firm, Ackerman McQueen, is imperiling the operation of NRATV.
The rift between the two operations first became very public when the NRA filed a lawsuit against Ackerman over viewership and billing records for NRATV and other services. The NRA later sued Ackerman again for allegedly orchestrating a failed coup attempt designed to de-throne NRA EVP Wayne LaPierre, as well as disparaging the organization.
Oh, and Ackerman counter-sued the NRA (for $50 million) claiming that the NRA has smeared its reputation.
Finally, surprising no one, Ackerman announced last month that they’re ending their decades-long relationship with the gun rights org. It’s difficult to have an effective working relationship between a marketing firm and a client when each is suing the other and issuing multiple negative public statements about the other party.
As you might expect, the ongoing dispute and litigation are now threatening to put an end to the lavishly-produced (though indeterminately popular) NRATV. As Bloomberg is reporting, Ackerman is demanding that the NRA post a $3 million letter of credit to keep NRATV on the air (or wherever it’s being broadcast).
After Ackerman McQueen countersued, it said it would wind down its work with the group over 90 days. But in the new filing the agency claims it “will suffer immediate irreparable harm” that will require it to fire or put 40% of its staff on leave, unless its request for a letter of credit is granted.
Such a step would effectively end NRATV, which has been produced by Ackerman McQueen and has drawn fire for politically charged rhetoric.
The NRA is skeptical of Ackerman McQueen’s claims because of the agency’s “repeated failure to provide backup for its invoices,” NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam said in a statement. The filing suggests the firm “cannot sustain its facilities, operations, or employees without continued support from the NRA. The NRA is confident that we will prevail, and we look forward to a complete airing of all the facts relative to Ackerman’s behavior and practices once and for all.”
The NRA makes up a huge portion of Ackerman’s total book of business.
About half of Ackerman McQueen’s 169 employees work on NRA projects or services, and about 25% are “essentially virtual employees of the NRA,” according to a written declaration by the firm’s Chief Financial Officer Bill Winkler.
The question is, like the proverbial tree falling in the woods, if NRATV disappears, would anyone notice? No one seems to have good data as to how many viewers the operation reaches on a regular basis. And outside of Dana Loesch and possibly Cam Edwards, most people probably can’t name another NRATV personality.
Colion Noir is no doubt popular within segments of the gun-owning community, but again, no one seems to know how many viewers his program actually gets.
Can the NRA, or whatever successor marketing operation they choose to hire, produce video programming less expensively? Should the NRA focus its media efforts on gun rights-related content and avoid the purely political content that NRATV has featured (and been criticized for)?
All of these and other questions about the operation are undoubtedly being kicked around the NRA’s Fairfax headquarters as we speak.