A couple weeks after Real Simple ran an ad that may run afoul of the American Society of Magazine Editors guidelines, copies of the guidelines were distributed among Time Inc. publishers, suggesting to some insiders that the parent company is seeking to avoid a repeat performance.
Real Simple ran a Walmart ad in its April issue that resembled an editorial decorating section immediately preceding it. The ad headline “Decorating with Walmart” plays off the editorial section’s headline, “Decorating with Yellow.”
“It appears to be an unlabeled advertorial because it looks like editorial,” said Sid Holt, CEO of ASME. “It’s exactly what the guidelines were created to address.”
Through a spokeswoman, Real Simple editor Kristin van Ogtrop said that the ad was tested with consumers and that there was no reader confusion.
The advertisement adds a level of intrigue to this year’s National Magazine Awards. Real Simple is a contender in the prestigious category of General Excellence (2 million circ and up). Holt said he would refer the ad to ASME’s guidelines committee when it meets after the awards ceremony April 22.
Unusual magazine ad executions are becoming more common as advertisers look to break out of the ad clutter, and some media buyers say ASME’s guidelines constrain magazines from competing with other media, where product integration is common.
ASME itself acknowledges the voluntary standards haven’t kept pace with industry practice and is working on revising the current guidelines, but doesn’t expect to reissue them before September.