The CEO of the sprawling American Media, which publishes such diverse brands as National Enquirer and Shape, argues that product placement—which thrives in other media but has been the third rail of magazine publishing—needs to be part of the conversation.
“I know that the ASME guidelines clearly state that advertisers should not pay to place their products in editorial pages, but the fact is it has become a common practice in movies and TV shows today,” says Pecker. “Product placement has helped fund movies or shows, and certainly hasn’t prevented them from winning an Oscar, Emmy or the NY Film Critics Award. Nor has it sent the audience running out of theaters or living rooms in disgust.”
Pecker says that Magazine Publishers of America should make developing a product-placement policy for the industry a priority for 2009. “I encourage our industry to work closely with Marlene Kahan [executive editor at the American Society of Magazine Editors] and Nina Link [CEO of MPA] to come up with ways that we can all agree upon to make this work for magazines, without compromising their editorial integrity,” he says. “For example, I’d think that a fashion spread featuring outdoor clothes with a sports car as a prop could have an automaker pay for that placement because it really doesn’t corrupt or compromise the fashion editorial.”
The key is in the details, Pecker says. It may be that a policy establishes the number of times a product placement can be used, or the circumstances, or the ways in which it should be communicated to readers. All of those elements should be part of a conversation, Pecker says, but the conversation needs to be started.
“I will leave it to Marlene Kahane and Nina Link to make the final determination as to how this can be implemented, such as restricting such placements to a very few per issue, with ASME setting the guidelines,” Pecker says. “However, it is important to note that revenue from these placements can be directed into the editorial budget just as it goes into a film’s budget. With editorial budgets facing cutbacks due to rising costs of paper and postage, product placement will help sustain our editorial quality, not diminish it.”
STRENGTHS: It is a new source of revenue for magazines and advertisers are demanding more editorial integration.
WEAKNESSES: Possible impact on editorial integrity.
OPPORTUNITIES: It has been accepted in other media so there should be little resistance from advertisers to accept it in print.
THREATS: Not trying to make it work in print gives advertisers another reason to buy other media.
Founding Partner, Veronis Suhler Stevenson
Wenda Harris Millard
Co-CEO, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia
President and CEO, CXO Media
Founder, Publisher and CEO, New West Publishing
Founder and Editor, Technologizer.com
General Manager, Digital Media, New York Media