Friday, April 03, 2009

OMG!!! Maclean's!!! What happened to your cover?

Maclean's. Its latest mission? To boldly go down slippery slopes, where Esquire has gone before. See posts passim.

With its April 13 issue, Maclean's leaps aboard the flapvert toboggan. Complete with an arrow and the words "OPEN HERE".

Not "OPEN HERE IF YOU WISH TO GAZE UPON AN ADVERT FROM A CAR COMPANY".

No, it is implied that the reader would "open here" to partly reveal the answer to the question asked in the hed:
What happened to teenagers?
They're [...]. An exclusive report on a momentous social shift.
OPEN HERE
Call me a naive purist, but I suspect we will soon all be looking back up -- with wist -- at the top of this particular toboggan hill.

So I focus-grouped it on one person, a friend outside the magazine industry who is used to my asking for opinions on covers purely in terms of their effectiveness on the newsstand. His first reaction after reading aloud the words "Open here" and opening the flapvert: "What is that"?

When I asked what he thought about it, he immediately replied "I hate it." Why? "Because it's deceptive; you think it's something to do with the teenagers".

Readers are much smarter than some publishers give them credit for being. They're not fooled, even when they're momentarily tricked. And when they feel conned, it affects our magazines' image.

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11 Comments:

Anonymous Patrick Walsh said...

Jon,

I haven't seen this particular Maclean’s cover. Are you saying that under the flap, there is only advertising, both on the inside cover of the flap and on the facing page?

11:10 am  
Blogger Jon Spencer said...

Hi Patrick:

It's similar to the Esquire dealie as shown in the "posts passim": A 5" square area smack-dab in the middle of the magazine's front cover, that one is encouraged to pull back to reveal an ad on the flap's inside front and inside back, so to speak.

So the "cover" of the magazine is actually a double-thick layer of paper glued together, with the two sides of the central "flap" area being sorta stuck together with a "half-hearted" glue (similar to sticky-note-pad glue).

I would have scanned it with the flap fully open, but I didn't want to give the advertiser more visibility. [grin]

-- Jon

3:50 pm  
Anonymous Patrick Walsh said...

Hi Jon,
I have the Esquire Obama cover. When you open the flap, you see editorial underneath. The ad (for the Discovery Channel) is on the IFC of the flap.

What I was asking, is there editorial underneath when you open the Maclean's flap? Or is it advertising both on the IFC of the flap and on the facing page beneath?

7:43 pm  
Blogger Jon Spencer said...

Oh I see. I had assumed (mistakenly) that the Esquire one was ad front+back. A closer look at this image http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_kSyKe9js8Wc/SXnewuI0MII/AAAAAAAADFY/67UsFn3Z36A/s1600-h/esquire+cover+flap+2.jpg reveals that you're right.

Maclean's has, therefore, gone slightly further down the slope than Esquire ... the ad is indeed shown on the IFC of the flap and on the facing portion of page.

7:19 pm  
Anonymous Patrick Walsh said...

Jon,

If that's the case, well, I have to voice concern.

To preface, though, I must say I was cool with Esquire's Obama cover flap. You opened it to see editorial on the facing page; the ad was on the inside cover of the flap, not unlike an IFC. To me, that was a clever editorial use of the cover, while still garnering additional ad revenue. Did it cross the line? No.

Back to Maclean’s. If indeed the centre flap features advertiser messaging on both the facing page and the IFC, I'm not comfortable with it.

For starters, it ignores the time-honoured conceit that the cover is editorial, with newsstand imperatives thrown into the mix. My far bigger concern, though, is that the editorial space on the cover shouts to the flap. Editorial speaking to an ad? Oh dear.

Having chaired the mag industry’s task force on ad-edit guidelines, I know there’s a broad desire out there for respecting the ad-edit divide, and the reader. To that end, Ken Whyte has been pushing the limits, and in the process developed some intriguing new ways to connect advertisers with readers. For example, the concept of one-off sponsored editorial packages, with the sponsor/advertiser having no connection to the content (remember the Titans of Power/Cadillac series?) is now acceptable under the recently revamped Canadian Magazine Industry Advertising-Editorial Guidelines. I credit Ken with opening that now acceptable revenue stream.

But here’s the thing: sponsored editorial as outlined above does not muddy the waters. There is no confusion on the readers part as to what is advertiser messaging and what is true editorial. But with this new Maclean’s cover flap, well, there is confusion. And some deceit, as you point out, Jon. As a reader, I would also have assumed, thanks to the layout and the cover lines, that opening the flap would bring me more on the cover theme. It does not. It gives me an ad.

That is not right. And it does a great disservice to those of us at other consumer magazines striving to maintain our editorial integrity through these tough times. I can just hear it now: “Well, Maclean’s thinks it’s okay to do.” Great.

7:40 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Meh...pays the bills, no?

5:19 pm  
Blogger D. B. Scott said...

Anonymous. Follow the logic. If the flap is OK, why not sell the whole cover as an ad? That, too, would pay the bills. As would running at a 100% ad ratio. Of course, then, you wouldn't have a magazine, but a catalogue. There are reasons why there have traditionally been some rules; being in a recession shouldn't toss the rule book. The whole point about a slippery slope is that it is hard to scramble back up.

5:34 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

D.B....I guess you need to explain why a magazine should be any different than a newspaper? It appears common for the latter to run 'earlug' ads on their 'cover'.

the new Maclean's cover seems like less of a transgression than the flap they had a few months ago for used BMWs that had a box ON THE COVER with ad copy tied into the flap ad. I'll agree that was a step too far.

These new flaps, however, are a bit of a one trick pony. You'll see a variety of them and then likely never see them again.

9:01 pm  
Blogger D. B. Scott said...

Agreed, it is common now for newspapers to run not only ear lugs but also zipper ads at the bottom of the front page. But magazines are and have been different and there has been a general view that ads do not belong on the cover.

Apparently, in a few quarters, that view is changing and the rationalization is that, in hard times, principles such as this go out the window. It would seem to me that the test of your principles (established by industry consensus) is whether you can maintain them in hard times, not dump them as inconvenient.

10:32 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How come you never complained when The Walrus or Azure ran Audi ads with a reverse cover flap...it was an entire cover that folded the opposite way. Isn't this just as bad as what Maclean's is doing?

11:32 am  
Blogger D. B. Scott said...

This comment thread is now closed.

11:49 am  

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