WSJ on the line between editorial and advertising

The WSJ talks about the whole ad/editorial thing today good story, here are some points from it:

The latest issue of Country Living magazine carries an eight-page advertising insert from Home Depot Inc. and its EXPO Design Center. On a facing page, the magazine displays a feature story describing how “with the help and careful planning of EXPO Design Center, a dreary kitchen turns into an efficient workspace.”

Such juxtapositions are considered by many in the media industry to be a no-no, violating generally agreed upon boundaries between editorial content and advertising. Indeed, in this case, a spokeswoman for the magazine says it was a coincidence, not the result of a deal. But such juxtapositions are just the kind of editorial mention that marketers love to have as they seek to stand out from the advertising clutter.

Many advertisers are enjoying new opportunities to embed their marketing messages into TV shows, videogames, movies and other programming. That’s emboldened some to try to mix ad messages and content in magazines as well such as running ads next to magazine stories about the same product, getting products mentioned in stories, creating contests linked to magazines, and running ads that look like magazine layouts all of which could blur the traditional line between editorial and advertising.

The American Society of Magazine Editors for years has maintained guidelines for upholding that separation. Now it says it’s preparing to re-evaluate those guidelines. ASME’s president, Newsweek Editor Mark Whitaker, says the group isn’t seeking to toughen or loosen the standards, but to eliminate “grey areas” in which content and advertising can blur. “Just the fact that some of this has happened in TV means that advertisers are starting to push a little harder” for similar treatment in magazines, says Mr. Whitaker. Many newspapers are facing similar advertiser pressure.

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