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!
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.