Updated: ASME Weighs In on Ad Cover Gimmicks


Look out for more gimmicky ad treatments from magazines in the coming months as publishers hunt for revenue in a dismal ad market.

Sources said Esquire is pitching ads that would jump off the page when the magazine is held up to a computer’s Webcam. The augmented reality technology, which has become a popular marketing scheme, would enhance its December Best & Brightest issue focusing on innovation.

Bonnier Corp.’s Popular Science used the technique on its July cover, which when activated, made windmills spin in 3-D.

Hearst-owned Esquire declined to comment on plans for the issue but has told potential advertisers it would be the first editorial-driven use of augmented reality. To advertisers, it described having the cover subject greet readers, who will then see the cover image be built. Inside, augmented reality could be used to play videos of story subjects and a runway show accompanying a fashion story.

The growing use of such gimmicks has raised concerns about the traditional line between ads and editorial. The American Society of Magazine Editors’ guidelines call for clear separation of the two to protect the magazines’ editorial integrity.

Esquire, which has produced a number of tricked-out covers lately, stirred debate with its February cover, which contained a window that opened to reveal an ad opposite editorial content.

Scholastic Parent & Child, which directly flouted ASME guidelines when it put ads on the bottom of its covers this year, is getting ready to run another provocative ad, in October and November. The ad for Campbell Soup bookends an editorial spread and is joined by creative (in this case, a very long noodle) that interrupts the editorial. Mediaedge:cia and BBDO handled the ad.

Sid Holt, chief executive of ASME, wrote in an e-mail that while the Scholastic ad isn’t addressed by ASME’s guidelines, it “violates the relationship between reader and magazine.”
“I can't imagine that journalists—and readers—would welcome this kind of intrusion on editorial copy any more than an advertiser would welcome editorial commentary on their creative,” he wrote.

Risa Crandall, vp and publisher, said when Scholastic tested the ad with its reader panel, 93 percent approved of the unit. “We feel very confident that our readers are open [to] and approve it,” she said. Still, she said she would limit such interruptions to three per issue.

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