The once purportedly inviolable wall between editorial and advertising has all but crumbled at a seemingly innocent parenting title — all over a bottle of skin lotion — Nat Ives reports for Advertising Age.
For the latest issue of Scholastic Parent & Child (and really, if there ever was a corrupt media institution, Scholastic would be it, right?), editorial staff actually helped to put together an advertising page.
A magazine industry group was dismayed. “Confusing editorial and advertising is a betrayal of the best interests of both readers and advertisers,” said Sid Holt, CEO of the American Society of Magazine Editors. “Scholastic Parent & Child’s defiance of industry norms is simply shameful.”
Parent & Child editor Nick Friedman doesn’t see what the big deal is, since the product in question, Curel Itch Defense Lotion (pictured) poses few threats to the magazine’s editorial vision.
Ives goes on to report that the Parent & Child flap underscores a larger-scale tendencies for editorial staff to collaborate with advertisers. The question is no longer whether a publication is pure, but rather whether it warns its readers what it’s up to and asks their permission before running a spot.
As partnerships between editorial and business have bloomed particularly in the past 18 months, so has research into what readers expect and will accept, according to Brenda White, senior VP and publishing activation director at media agency Starcom Worldwide. “I’ve talked to many editors about this topic,” she said. “They definitely protect their brands and, more importantly, they protect their consumers. I’m seeing a lot more research around from the magazines saying ‘Hey, would our readers be open to X, Y, Z?’”
But until standards change across the industry, publications at the forefront of the advertorial discipline are likely to find themselves in some itchy situations.