On Monday that list grew to include USA Today, the national flagship of Gannett Co., which featured a front page wrap carrying an advertisement for Jeep's 2011 Grand Cherokee. According to Mediaweek, which first reported the news, it completely obscured the newspaper in outdoor racks.
The cover wrap is part of an ad buy, valued at over $1 million, which also includes ads for the Jeep Grand Cherokee on the USA Today Web site and iPad app. Previously, the newspaper has allowed ads printed on the front page -- but they did not obscure editorial. On July 1, its "Life" section was wrapped with an ad for Verizon.
Struggling to hold onto print advertising dollars, a number of newspaper publishers have dabbled with unconventional ad formats and placements, including spadea ads, a separately printed, unbound broadsheet that appears as a partial page or flap over the front and back. (The practice has long been popular with magazines.)
But this can be a tricky business, depending on how tastefully (or not) the ad placements are executed.
Two weeks ago, the Los Angeles Times was publicly chastised by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors with an open letter to Tribune Co. CEO Sam Zell asking that it cease publishing ads on the cover of the newspaper that are intended to look like editorial content.
The letter from the Board of Supervisors adds that "the cost of this distasteful practice to the people of Los Angeles County is far greater than any short-term gains by the Tribune Company."
The occasion of the letter was the latest cover ad stunt, which saw LATExtra (which covers breaking news) wrapped with a four-page ad section designed to look like the actual cover of the section, promoting the new King Kong attraction at Universal Studios Hollywood.