Just an Online Minute... Blurring the Lines
Both NYTimes.com and CBSMarketWatch.com have rejected a Sony campaign entitled Feature by Sony, which is formatted like a news article that consists of customer testimonials on Sony products with links to Sony websites.
The issue is the blurring of editorial and advertising.
According to NYTimes.com, the two companies could not agree on a program that met “acceptability guidelines.” A spokeswoman told MediaDailyNews today that NYTimes.com stipulates that advertising content has to be clearly labeled, but Sony had different options for labeling.
Scot McLernon, vice president of sales at CBSMarketWatch, said the campaign "crosses the line between church and state. There's not enough differentiation that allows our readers to know what they're reading. Our editors looked at the campaign and it was clear to us there was not enough differentiation."
Interestingly enough, Nationalgeographic.com didn’t have a problem with the campaign. The site is running "Feature by Sony" at the top of the article, not identifying it as advertising.
The Sony campaign, nevertheless, has instantly become yet another poster-child for a long-term debate regarding the separation of church and state in advertising. It should be interesting to watch how it all plays out.