Sunday, November 14, 2010

Better Homes and Gardens magazine blurring the line between advertising and editorial

Times are tough in the consumer magazine business.
Last year, magazines lost a quarter of their ad pages from the previous year, the New York Times reported. So far this year (January-September), ad pages are down 1.6% from the same period in 2009, the Publishers Information Bureau reported.
Desperate times call for desperate measures, some may say. But the line between advertising and editorial is supposed to be sacrosanct. Advertisers may pay for product placements in TV shows, but they shouldn’t be able to buy their way into articles written by journalists.
The October issue of Better Homes and Gardens got me thinking about whether that publication had crossed the line.
On page 152 of the issue a woman is holding a bottle of SoBe, a beverage owned by PepsiCo. The label of the bottle is clearly visible and appears positioned for the camera. The same photo appears on the table of contents on page 5.
With Photoshop and other photo-editing tools, it would have been very easy to erase or blur the SoBe logo on the bottle. Magazine editors doctor photos all the time for effect. So I can only assume that the SoBe bottle was purposely visible.
Was Better Homes publisher Meredith Corp. compensated by PepsiCo for the product placement? I don’t know. There were no obvious ads for SoBe or Pepsi products in the issue as far as I could tell.
Either way, the SoBe cameo bothered me.

Photos: Intro page for the feature article “No Stone Unturned” from the October 2010 issue of Better Homes and Gardens (bottom), close up of SoBe brand beverage in the feature photo.

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