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Dyson at Large: 10 reasons why political wraps are indefensible

What a load of rubbish! And I’m not just deriding party political ad wraps on regional paid-for newspapers here.

I’m also shaking my head in wonder at how various people in regional newspapers – including my old mate David Higgerson at Trinity Mirror – are sticking up for what many consider to be blatant attempts to dupe the public.

To be fair to David, I understand his alternative narrative that the wraps demonstrate political parties’ confidence in local newspapers to reach the electorate. But for me, that’s verging on double-think!

Exeter Tory

Here’s my 10-point analysis on why political ad-wraps are rubbish and what needs to be done:

1.  Yes, the wraps are doing the job, but only because political strategists love the fact they can get away with looking like editorial … hardly something to be proud of.

2. Would the Daily Mirror – with all its heritage – accept a Tory ad wrap? Would The Guardian accept a Labour ad wrap? What would their readers think? We all know regionals are proudly independent, as opposed to those two nationals, but the wraps still sit awkwardly with readers, (and in case there’s any doubt, readers ARE offended).

3. Personally, I rate the editors involved for using their editorials to defend the neutrality of their titles. But when you measure their single column treatises on pages six or deeper against the entire front page and wrap, it’s not quite balanced, is it?

4. Okay, like it or not, ad wraps are here to stay, but on such a sensitive subject (politics and our future) publishers should surely be insisting the wraps actually look like adverts, and are not designed to look and feel like editorial splashes.

5. That means any such wrap should either be a display advert or, if the advertiser insists on using headlines and stories, should look so unlike any of the carrying newspaper’s editorial that not one reader mistakes it for a story.

6. Which in turn means the use of a headline font and body type that is markedly different to anything used in the newspaper, plus a thick rule around the design – as a minimum.

7. The much-quoted Advertising Standards Authority is shown up for its lily-livered regulation of such adverts imitating editorial. Its guidance on the design of advertorials and the size of the accompanying ‘Advertiser’s announcement’ is – to be kind – too permissive.

8. As it stands, not only are the wraps designed to mimic a splash, the ones I’ve seen are carrying far too tiny an ‘advertiser’s announcement’ lost in a weak white-on-grey background – clearly hoping not to be seen.

9. Therefore, another minimum should be the use of a one-inch high, black-on-white ‘Advertiser’s announcement’ heading, within the above-mentioned thick black rule.

10. And if a political party takes umbrage with a publisher for having the temerity to do the above and ends up withdrawing its advertising, newspapers should expose this desire to hoodwink the public on the next day’s front page!

Come on regional publishers! Let’s have a purer editorial stance on what’s simply electioneering pretending to be the editorial splash, a masquerade that’s offending many readers as well as journalists.

10 comments

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  • May 17, 2017 at 7:23 am
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    Spot on steve a superb summary of all that’s wrong with papers carrying political wraps then editors attempting to defend them.
    The response and vast number of comments and likes to last weeks 2 HTFP stories underlined the deoth of feeling and opposition to these blatant commercial promotions thinly disguised as news cover splashes.

    All commercial cover wraps look cheap and not very cheerful but I can ( reluctantly) see why the more desperate publishers carry them despite them cheapening the brand by sssociatin, there can be nothing valid reason for anyone allowing party political wraps to be published particularly in the run up to a poling day or ejection

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  • May 17, 2017 at 7:25 am
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    Typos!

    No valid reason ( not ‘nothing valid reason’)
    Election not ejection ( however….)

    Sincere apologies

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  • May 17, 2017 at 9:26 am
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    Important points, well made. Important not only for journalism but the UK’s electoral system which needs to avoid slipping down the American route of “buying” elections.

    Sadly however all Steve’s concerns are likely to be lost on the bean-counters who now control so much of the regional press.

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  • May 17, 2017 at 10:03 am
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    Well summarised Steve
    Has anyone seen ever seen a four page wrap, political or otherwise,which added anything to the overall look of the paper other than money?
    No me neither

    Whilst ad money is desperately needed to offset out of control costs, advertisers using competitor media or reps not selling enough, surely there’s editors left in the industry somewhere who are not afraid to stand up and be counted and with enough integrity to turn these god awful looking ad pages down for the good of the paper?

    If all covers were ruled out of bounds to anything other than the papers own news it would remove any confusion and negate accusations of political bias and make the ad reps work harder to sell the benefits of advertising within the publication rather than taking the easy cheap and ready route of plastering a sales message right around the entire paper.

    A call was made on HTFP for any editor to come forward who has turned one down but I assume by the lack of feedback no ne has?, this may tell us all we need to know about what’s really deemed important to the publishers accepting wraps and it’s certainly no longer quality content or a good looking front page

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  • May 17, 2017 at 11:28 am
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    Horrible – but we’ve yet to see a sustainable plan for local press which doesn’t involve making concessions like these. Depressing.

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  • May 17, 2017 at 1:56 pm
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    Sorry but I completely disagree. Most of these points make the assumption that all our readers are stupid. Readers get offended by anything and everything so perhaps some are, but most level-headed human beings see these wraps for exactly what they are.

    Would we have the same outcry about a political homepage takeover or full screen pop-up on the platform where the vast majority of our readers now engage? I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t and we’ll probably get the opportunity to find out!

    The fact is, some editorial staff are upset at something which ‘would have never happened in my day’ and a few readers are ‘offended’ by something they disagree with. The same could have once been said about an advert for ‘discreet massage’ in the classifieds!

    Let’s see if there’s a huge dip in sales next week shall we? Oh wait…

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  • May 18, 2017 at 9:32 am
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    Sorry Oliver – totally disagree with you. Yes, do agree readers are not stupid but I still believe front pages should be about news. Behind the scenes it shows that the power of the editor is diminishing in what goes onto the pages of a NEWSpaper. Yes, advertising is there to pay for the costs etc. Maybe I could be classed as a dinosaur having been a reporter for 50 years but editors should have the final say pin what goes on the front.Adverts should not look line news. A few moons ago, when working for a magazine, one page inside was made to look like editorial when it was an advert. The journos nearly went on strike. The management never did it again.

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  • May 18, 2017 at 9:49 am
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    Local papers sell so few copies now I wonder what the gain is for the politicians.

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  • May 18, 2017 at 1:02 pm
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    wordsmith, no worries about disagreeing with me. That’s what these forums are for. I would completely agree with your points if all local newspapers were funded like the BBC, but they’re privately/shareholder-owned businesses which can take whatever political stance they like, employ whomever they wish and carry whatever adverts they like.

    paperboy, the only real gain for the politicians is that it becomes a relatively cheap poster in prime position for the footfall in all major supermarkets, local shops and city centres. They don’t really care if anyone actually picks it up and reads it. How many people read a Tweet or Facebook post these days then comment without clicking through to the story? The majority. It’s the same principle here so Mr Dyson can do all he wants with the design, black borders and ‘advertiser’s announcement’ straps as it’ll make no difference to its purpose whatsoever!

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