Magazines Follow Papers Into Ad Quagmire

Reporting that “marketers are running advertisements on the covers of some publications,” Stuart Elliott (New York Times, 3/11/09) reviews past precedents–“the February issue of Esquire broke ground with a window, or flap, in the middle of the cover under which [was] an ad for…a series on the Discovery Channel” and “a hole in the [1990] Omni cover through which readers could see…part of a Motorola ad”–and says the present results have a familiar target:

The April issue of Scholastic Parent & Child, scheduled to come out on Monday, will carry an ad on the front cover for the first time in the 16-year history of the magazine. The ad, for a company called Smilebox, will appear in the lower right corner of the cover and carry the label “advertisement” in small type….

The American Society of Magazine Editors concluded that… the ad on the cover of Scholastic Parent & Child “is a violation” [of “the societyâ┚¬Ã¢”ž¢s guidelines on ad acceptability”], said Sid Holt, chief executive at the society in New York.

“It’s unfortunate because it has the potential to tell readers and advertisers that editorial is for sale,” he added…. “The guidelines are very clear that the cover is editorial space and advertising should not appear.”

Elliott also cites the influential fact that “a print sibling, the newspaper, has reconsidered decades-old rules against display ads on section fronts or even front pages… ‘like what the New York Times is doing.'”