ASME: Us Weekly Violated Edit Guidelines With Cover

The American Society of Magazine Editors said another magazine, Us Weekly, violated ASME’s editorial guidelines that are designed to protect magazines’ editorial integrity.
The flap involved the April 20 issue of the Wenner Media pub. The celeb weekly ran a mock cover as part of a five-page ad for HBO’s Grey Gardens. The false cover, on subscriber copies only, was meant to resemble a 1940s-era issue of Us, with Grey Gardens stars Jessica Lange and Drew Barrymore.
Several elements differentiated the mock cover from the actual cover. The word “advertisement” appeared across the top; the logo and fonts were different; and the image was designed to resemble a stack of magazines.
Vicci Lasdon Rose, publisher of Us Weekly, said earlier this week that the unit was clearly a departure from the magazine’s traditional editorial approach. “We were very clear by the creative treatment…so there was no miscommunication there. There was no effort to betray or manipulate the reader.”
Nevertheless, ASME CEO Sid Holt wrote in an e-mail today, “ASME firmly believes that advertising cannot obscure the cover in any manner whatsoever, especially advertising that mimics editorial.”
Separately, Holt said ASME concluded that another Wenner title, Rolling Stone, didn’t violate ASME’s guidelines with its April 2 issue. That issue included two covers with an identical image. The first cover carried the message “To see what’s inside” and an arrow prompting readers to turn the page, which contained a car ad for Mini.
“Although the creation of an outside cover on subscriber copies was apparently prompted by a manufacturing issue related to an advertisement, the cover was not expressly used to direct readers to an ad,” Holt wrote in an email. “Readers turned the page to find editorial content—cover lines—on the right-hand page.”
Earlier in his career, Holt was editorial director of Us and managing editor of Rolling Stone.
As they struggle to grow ads in a down economy, magazines have been experimenting with ever more unusual ad executions, sometimes blurring the line between advertising and editorial.
Us Weekly is the third magazine in a week after ESPN the Magazine and Entertainment Weekly to get an ASME reprimand, a notice that typically carries no repercussions.
Holt said that a Powerade ad flap that partly obscured the cover of ESPN’s April 6 issue misused the cover for advertising purposes, because it 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.” But Holt added that because the execution was relatively novel, ASME wanted to discuss it with the magazine.