Applebee's 'disappointed' with CNN after awkward ad placement during Ukraine coverage

Applebee’s pauses advertising on CNN following an awkward ad placement during Ukraine-Russia coverage.

Applebee's 'disappointed' with CNN after awkward ad placement during Ukraine coverage

Applebee’s has paused advertising on CNN and the network has removed picture-in-picture advertisements from its coverage of the Russia-Ukraine crisis, following an unfortunate ad transition Thursday, spokespeople from both brands told Ad Age. 

The network was criticized on social media hours after Russia invaded Ukraine when it went from broadcasting air raid sirens in Ukraine to showing an upbeat picture-in-picture ad for the casual restaurant chain. At one point, the words “RUSSIA INVADES UKRAINE” from CNN’s coverage appeared next to a man in the ad dancing.

“When we were made aware that our ad was placed in this manner, we immediately reached out to CNN to pause our advertising on their network,” an Applebee’s spokesperson said. “It never should have aired, and we are disappointed in the actions of the network.” The spokesperson added that the brand is “deeply concerned about the situation in Ukraine.”

Picture-in-picture “advertisements have been removed from the coverage,” a CNN spokesperson said.

The scene illustrated the unintended consequences of airing split-screen ads during a global crisis, and many viewers took notice. 

Clips of the jarring juxtaposition were captured and shared by multiple Twitter users and retweeted thousands of times today. 

Conservative CNN critics in particular criticized the ad transition—though noted liberal commentator Keith Olbermann is among those who also called attention to the problematic placement.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include comments from CNN and Applebee’s.