Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Did the WSJ and the NYT cross the line with Apple?

With advertisers demanding ever more inventive packages and positions, online and off, and with their agencies getting better at online, all credible media have to have their guard up, the International Herald Tribune included.

There is some suggestion that the NYT and the WSJ crossed the line last week with their advertising for Apple and these two blog posts below are not only instructive as to how easy it is to cross that line, but more importantly, that readers notice it and don't appreciate it. Editorial and Advertising at the IHT should read them.

This ad is incredible, but is it a good thing?
I think the Mac ad running on the front of the Wall Street Journal and New York Times (and perhaps others) websites today is the most brilliant online advertising I’ve ever seen. (I also think it’s mean-spirited and insincere, as well, which I mention below — but that’s not the focus of this post.) Hands down, it beats any interstitial ad I’ve ever seen — primarily because I’ve always clicked on the “skip this ad” whenever I’ve seen one. It also beats any “rich media” play-with-a-pencil ad. It beat ads that fly-over editorial content. It beats anything that blocks editorial content. It beats any YouTube “user-generated” ad for that matter. It’s incredible. Most incredible, however, is that it is running on the front page of the Wall Street Journal & New York Times websites.

Did and cross the line last week?
Last week, I wrote that while I believed it was brilliant, the animated Apple advertisement that appeared on the front page of and, especially, the Wall Street Journal website, may have crossed some as-yet-determined line of what is okay — or not okay — with online advertising on news-media websites. In that post, I wrote: “The ad’s headline is in a little ruled box, but it’s in a font that is extremely similar to the actual headlines on the page…it’s obvious to you and me and probably 99% of the and readers that this is an ad, but if this had appeared in a magazine, well, let’s just say it would have at least needed some clarification or a major ASME bruhaha would be taking place today.” Later, David Kaplan of noted that the folks at had decided to limit the giant ads to “once a month.”
I thought by displaying the current news-screaming front page of with last week’s “ad giant” front page may demonstrate why it’s a challenge to experiment with editorial real-estate and conventions that you have trained readers to believe are reserved for only the most major news story. In this case, I think the experiment — despite its brilliance as advertising — needs some re-thinking.

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