L.A. pols go ape over the LA Times' King Kong 2 stunt!

Posted on Tue Jul 6 2010
King-Kong-Universal-Studios-Hollywood_47032842 Among those not amused by the four-page Universal Studios Hollywood ad in last week's L.A. Times that looked exactly like a regular news section: the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. Reacting to the latest in a string of  editorial/advertising mashups, the board sent a sternly worded letter to the paper's owner, Tribune Co. CEO Sam Zell, telling him to knock it off because the practice "makes a mockery of the paper's mission." The officials said that "a dull red 'Advertisement' disclaimer doesn't make it right," and told the Times to "stop selling its front pages to advertisers, especially in such an offensive and alarming manner. The cost of this distasteful practice to the people of Los Angeles County is far greater than any short-term gains by the Tribune Co." Fighting words! Times Publisher Eddy Hartenstein defended the section, which contained stories about a marauding ape which were planted hype the new King Kong 3-D attraction at Universal, saying it "met our advertising guidelines." What the supervisor protest does is draw more attention to the Times tactic—mingling news copy and ads in ways that were once kind of arresting but now are a little tired, from a marketing perspective. Ethically speaking,well, you be the judge. What it won't do, however, is change anything. Wonder what the paper has planned for the next Harry Potter movie?    

—Posted by T.L. Stanley

'L.A. Times' keeps its streak of questionable ad placements alive

Posted on Fri Jun 12 2009

Timestrueblood copy

Expecting to see a giant photo of resplendent three-point-shooter Derek Fisher on the cover of my Los Angeles Times on Friday morning, I was shocked to find instead a moody full-page shot of a vampire with a streak of blood dripping from his mouth. Has the town been taken over by the undead, and can that possibly be more important than the NBA Finals? No, it's just our paper of record selling its soul again.
  Bill the hunky vampire is part of a four-page spread touting Sunday's return of the HBO cult fave True Blood. The ad has the venerable L.A. Times logo stamped on top, making it look like the real front page, and it's wrapped around the paper, so it's the first image that readers see. The word "advertisement" is printed in tiny type below the masthead. (Fisher, in fact, is on the real front page for his stellar run in Thursday night's win over the Orlando Magic). This is the third time lately, for those keeping count, that the Times has charged into ethically suspect territory with its advertisers. Readers protested this spring over a fake news story on page one for the NBC cop drama Southland and a Paramount Pictures-sponsored ad supplement for the three-hankie movie The Soloist that carried the well-known Times logo and "editorial" content.
  At least this time the ad-sales team stuck its neck out for a quality project. Even so, it'll probably come back to bite them. Photo by i_hate_my_screen_name on Flickr.

—Posted by T.L. Stanley

'L.A. Times' really takes a shine to ethically suspect advertising

Posted on Mon Apr 13 2009

Soloist copy

It's time to check back in on the case of the Los Angeles Times vs. what's left of its ethics. Today's hubbub is over a four-page ad section promoting the upcoming Jamie Foxx/Robert Downey Jr. drama The Soloist that was tucked into the Sunday newspaper. Angelenos who still bother to read the print edition saw a section that looked much like the rest of the paper, except the film's name was stamped at the top of the front page, right under the well-known Times logo. The pages, from "Special Advertising Section" writers, detail the backstory of the best-selling book from L.A. Times columnist Steve Lopez, his friendship with a mentally ill, homeless musical prodigy, and the making of the Paramount film, which follows the man's return to the concert stage.
  Those who care about the distinction between advertising and editorial are none too pleased, and executive editor John Arthur said he was basically blindsided by the special section. (There seems to be some confusion internally, and now publicly, about who approves what, with ad folks saying they have the full blessing of editorial to sell such concepts. Guess no one told Arthur.) A Times sales executive also justified the Soloist ad by saying the paper produced a similar "editorial" piece for Universal's The Black Dahlia in 2006. But no one has yet pointed out this key fact: The ad for that bomb consisted of reprints of original news reports from the case—circa 1946. It looked like vintage newsprint, and that was the point. It stood out, for the right reasons. (It didn't help the box-office numbers much, though.) As I pointed out on Friday, the Times is exercising some dismal judgment here, recently running a front-page ad that looked like a news story for the derivative cop drama Southland. Now it's going to bat for a weepy Mr. Holland's Opus-looking flick that's generating little buzz in the industry. Worse than its bad decisions? Its bad taste. 

—Posted by T.L. Stanley



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