Even before it hit newsstands this week, the September (10th Anniversary) issue of XXL had raised eyebrows among professionals in the publishing industry.
On the back cover, appearing in a Rocawear advertisement, is XXL editor-in-chief Elliott Wilson. His appearance in the ad, according to some in the industry, is a violation of the separation between editorial and advertising.
"No person on an editorial staff should ever be involved in producing or participating in advertising," says ASME executive director Marlene Kahan. "[The XXL ad] appears to be a violation of ASME guidelines."
"The photo in question is offensive," says publishing industry blogger Paul Conley on blogsite Prohiphop.com, where the issue was initially raised. "And in the world of news or serious journalism, it would clearly be a violation of editorial ethics. As far as I know, no editor-in-chief in the history of magazine publishing has ever appeared as a spokesperson for products sold by an advertiser."
Wilson doesn’t feel that his appearance in the Roccawear ad cross the ad/edit line, and doesn’t compromise the journalistic integrity of XXL, he says.
"Bottom line, this is a one-time only ad. I’m not wearing Rocawear clothes in it and I wasn’t compensated for it," Wilson says in an interview with FOLIO:. "While other ads in their campaign will be all over the place, this one will only be seen on the cover of XXL."
The ad in question is one in Rocawear’s new multimedia ad campaign called "I Will Not Lose", which was inspired by company co-founder and CEO, Jay-Z. It features recording artists like Ciara and Three 6 Mafia, as well as individuals who have overcome adversity in their lives.
"The profile of the campaign is overcoming adversity and that fits what we’ve been through here at XXL," Wilson says. In the ad, Wilson appears standing before a chalkboard with writing telling XXL’s "story of adversity."
"I think the ad shakes things up," Wilson continues. "It’s a strong statement to people who didn’t think we’d be the successful magazine we are."