At a time when the line between advertising and editorial content seems to
be blurring to an almost indistinguishable point, a major medium next
week will break an ad campaign that could blur it even further. That medium,
consumer magazines, ironically is also the same one that has been among the
most vigilant guardians of the so-called “church and state” between
editorial and advertising content.
But magazines, which now find themselves competing with a deluge of new
media options, as well as a new level of editorial and branded content
integration, nonetheless will break a trade ad campaign that relies heavily
on fake editorial content in major consumer magazines. The goal, say its
backers, is to break through the clutter, and create some buzz around the
unique connection consumers have with the magazines they read.
The question is what will consumers make of the effort, part of a three-
year, $40 million campaign crafted by Fallon New York for the Magazine
Publishers of America, when they open up the Feb. 28 edition of Time
magazine and read the cover lines “Dow Hits 500,000” and “Deleting
Depression,” as well as the cover story: “Android Rights: Is Owning One
Upon closer inspection, they may notice that the date is actually Feb. 28,
2105, and that the Time magazine cover is part of a series of faux “2105”
covers that will be appearing in major consumer magazines to illustrate the
continuing bond readers will have with their favorite publications 100 years
And while it is unlikely that the readers of the Nov. 23, 2105 issue of
people magazine will mistake its “TV’s Biggest Hit: Desperate Robots” cover
as anything but parody, they may not readily understand that it is
advertising, not editorial content. And that’s something that appears to
violate the magazine industry’s own self-imposed guidelines.
In fact, it was just such concerns that led the American Society of Magazine
Editors (ASME), as subsidiary of the MPA to reassert its guidelines in 1996,
again in 1997 and finally – for the digital editions of consumer magazines –
Among other things, the guidelines recommend that, “when in doubt, slug
it ‘advertisement’ or ‘promotion,’” adding that it is imperative to “Make
sure it is easy for readers to tell what kind of content it is.” Of the four
faux editorial content samples provided to MediaDailyNews, none bear a
Nonetheless, Jack Kliger, president-CEO of Hachette Filipacchi Media U.S.,
and one of the MPA members backing the new campaign, says confusing the
consumer might actually be a good thing in the context of the industry’s own
“To be honest with you, I don’t think it’s a bad thing for consumers to
scratch their heads over this. I don’t necessarily think scratching your
heads is a bad thing,” Kliger told MDN, adding, “It means they’ll be engaged
and thinking about what we are doing.”
Kliger says the campaign, including the faux covers, were reviewed by
members of ASME and that the editorial group had no problem with the effort.
In fact, he says they were very supportive of it, even though there is no
explicit disclaimer noting that the fake editorial content is actual
And while it might seem so ludicrous to some readers of the March 7 edition
of Sports Illustrated that “Hell Freezes Over! Cubs Win 2105 World Series,”
that’s something many New York Yankees fans were saying about the Boston Red
Sox before the fall 2004 World Series.
“It is fairly clear that these are not real magazine covers,” noted Kliger, adding that some initial confusion would help generate buzz for the campaign, something that has become imperative for many advertisers to break out of the clutter of traditional ad campaigns. Moreover, he said trade ads running that will break in major industry publications, websites and daily newspapers would make the effort even more explicit.
“The ad industry is what we are trying to target. This is targeted to the
advertising clients and agencies,” he said, adding, “We wanted to make it
looks like something that’s not trade-ish in feeling. Something that
underscores the very personal connection that consumers have with magazines,
especially at a time when consumers have so much more control over media
content and involvement.”
While much of the $40 million ad budget will come in the form of “in-kind”
ad space in the consumer magazines themselves, Kliger said it nonetheless
would be an “efficient” buy for reaching ad industry leaders.