On Dec 10 and 17, the Toronto Star ran a full-page ad on the front page of its entertainment section, despite its media kit saying advertising is not available for the front of sections. The surprise? The idea for the positioning came from the Star, not the advertiser

On Dec 10 and 17, the Toronto Star ran a full-page ad for Mirvish's War Horse on the front page of its entertainment section, to the surprise of some. After all, the Star’s media kit states that its creative advertising positioning is available in all sections, but not the front of sections (with the exception of front-page wrap-arounds). 

Jerry Langton looked into it for OpenFile Toronto and didn’t hear much from the Star. What he did hear from the advertiser, though, was surprising: The placement of the ad was the Star's idea and Mirvish says it had expressed concern about placing the ads on the front page of the section, though ultimately decided to proceed.

It’s not exactly a secret that newspapers are having a hard time generating revenue, and the Star isn’t unique in its attempt to get creative with advertising. As surprising as it may have been to see the ad placed on the front, doesn’t necessarily mean a decline in the quality of editorial. As Langton writes:

 

The Star is by no means reticent about its dedication to truth, justice and integrity, and that seems to be why the ad’s critics are so disturbed by them. But it’s hardly the only daily getting creative about ad streams. Shell Canada announced on December 20 it would be sponsoring a weekly page to be called “FP Energy” in the National Post’s Financial Post section. Under the deal, the paper will publish energy-related content. The deal also includes as-yet-undisclosed content for the popular CBC reality show Dragons’ Den, which is produced by Postmedia Network Inc., the same company that owns the National Post.

 

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Another example: In 2010, The Los Angeles Times ran a front-page wrap-around ad that looked, in part, to be an actual front page of The Times, much to the dismay of its editors. A spokesman for the paper told The New York Times that it wasn’t much different than ads that take over a webpage for a few seconds when a user arrives – the paper had just taken concepts from new media and applied them to its print product.

But do ads such as these even work? Rex Whisman, founder and chief strategist for BrandED Consultants, told Langton it may weaken the brand of both the advertiser and the newspaper by literally covering up the content on the front page of a paper or a section.

If a newspaper values its advertisers' messages more than that of its strongest editorial content (which would seem to be the message being sent by placing ads on front pages), why should its readers value that content enough to read it? Or is it all just a precarious balancing act between a publication's valuation of its editorial content and ads, with each side having to bend a little every now and then?