Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Credits and brand mentions cross the wiggly line between ad and editorial

Increasing aggressiveness among buyers and increasing nervousness about ad budgets among publishers is resulting in more examples of disguised advertising and questionable advertorial calls. An interesting story in MediaWeek says that the blurring of the traditional church-state lines is proceeding apace.

Growing use of editorial credits and brand mentions is one of the most obvious indicators of the growing closeness between edit and sales
The exchange of editorial credits and advertising is a long-standing—if unofficial—practice most established with fashion and beauty books. But publishers and buyers describe a new aggressiveness among buyers, with some threatening to withhold ad pages if a client doesn’t get enough edit credits.
Hall’s Reports measures 26 fashion/beauty books and found that the use of editorial credits increased 33% in 2007 and is on track to increase 36% in 2008.
“When times are tough, advertisers aren’t stupid,” said magazine consultant Mike LaFavore, until last month the editorial director at Meredith Corp. “They know who’s holding the power. Publishers, desperate for ad pages, are bringing them to the editors.” If an editor says no, he added, that person may wonder, “How long am I going to keep my job?”
Among recent examples were Hearst Magazines’ Harper’s Bazaar gave over 40 pages of edit in its July issue to the four stars of a new Estée Lauder perfume campaign and Bauer Publishing’s Life & Style giving featuring Steve Madden shoes exclusively in a back-of-book spread (though that was labelled as an advertisement. Meredith last year sold a false cover on its magazine Parents to promote the DVD release of Shrek the Third, retaining the magazine's logo. This is in direct contravention of American Society of Magazine Editors (ASME) guidelines. (Find similar Canadian guidelines here.)
Jane Deery, president of PGR Media, said editorial credits have become more important to advertisers as they scrutinize their ad budgets. “The editorial is part of our RFP process, and it is as important as all the other pieces of information, such as rates and positioning,” she said. “We look hard at which magazines are supporting the client to determine whether they will get business or not.”
Some magazines have pushed back against growing advertiser encroachment, said the story.
After Bon Appétit turned its advertising masthead into a Starbucks ad in its May issue, parent Condé Nast put the kibosh on such treatments, declaring mastheads to be editorial content.

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