ASME Cites ESPN the Magazine, EW

The American Society of Magazine Editors came down on ESPN the Magazine and Entertainment Weekly for violating its editorial guidelines that call the front cover and spine of a magazine editorial space that shouldn’t be used for advertising.
ASME CEO Sid Holt said in a statement that the Powerade ad flap that partly obscured the cover of ESPN’s April 6 issue misused the cover for advertising purposes and was designed to direct readers away from editorial content.
In the case of EW, which had a cover notch ad promoting ABC’s The Unusuals series in its April 3 issue, ASME determined that the notch and ad copy reading “Pull this!” served “no apparent or conceivable editorial purpose.” Holt added in his statement, however, that because the execution is relatively novel, the organization wants to discuss it with the magazine.
The ESPN and EW covers are among a slew of recent magazine ad and editorial executions that have come to ASME’s attention for blurring the line between advertising and editorial content.
Yet with magazines strapped for ads and buyers pushing for more flexibility, more such executions are likely to appear as publishers seek to accomodate advertisers’ wishes for never-been-done ads.
In perhaps the most dramatic example of a magazine flouting the ASME guidelines, Scholastic Parent & Child is running ads on the cover of each issue this year in the form of corner units and strip units.
Officials from EW and ESPN have defended their cover executions, although ESPN admitted it “may have pushed the envelope in this case.”
In Parent & Child’s case, Risa Crandall, vp, Scholastic Parents Media, said the company polled 2,500 readers about the cover ads and that their reaction was positive. “Readers have evolved, and the Web has pushed us to evolve quicker,” she said. “Readers are used to seeing four, five ads on a home page.”
ASME’s guidelines are generally accepted industry standards but are voluntary. While ASME says it may disqualify repeat violations from its prestigious National Magazine Awards, violators are more typically admonished by a warning letter.