Boston Sunday Globe Inserts: Ads in Sheep’s Clothing

October 28, 2019

Branded content comes in many forms, as our kissin’ cousins at Sneak Attack have extensively chronicled. The New York Times has been particularly adroit at all forms of branded content, which Sneak Adtack noted earlier this year.

For the past four years the hardtracking staff has chronicled the drift by the New York Times toward cross-platform integration of native advertising, a.k.a. Russian Nesting Ads. A company runs an ad in the paper’s print edition that promotes an online ad that the Times’s T Brand Studio has created to look like editorial content. (Representative sample here.)

 

The Boston Globe, on the other hand, has only flirted with native advertising up to now, as in this bit of UMass marketing from a few years ago. Given the evidence of the past week, though, the $tately local broadsheet seems ready to dive into the deep end of the stealth marketing pool.

Last week’s Boston Sunday Globe included this eight-page Advertising Supplement produced by Boston Globe Media’s BG BrandLab.

 

 

With branded content, the first thing you want to look at is disclosure – how clear is it to readers that they’re looking at marketing material and not editorial content?

Give this effort a C- in transparency. “Special Report” is about three times the type size of “Advertising Supplement” on the front page, and this sort-of masthead – buried bottom left – occupies about five percent of page two.

 

 

Inside there are six unbylined articles along with four “Provided by” items that are presumably paid content.

 

 

Not surprisingly, the advertising supplement’s “Knowledge Partners” at the bottom of Page One also occupied some of the inside space, starting with this American Cancer Society advertorial atop page two.

 

 

Then the Boston Breast Cancer Equity Coalition got its ad turn.

 

 

And, of course, Susan G. Komen New England also made an advertising appearance.

 

 

There were also traditional ads for Lady Grace, Avon, and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Then yesterday came this Special Report on cybersecurity.

 

 

In terms of transparency, this one gets a D. Start with the top of page two, which looks very much like a standard Editor’s Letter.

 

 

(Note to BGniks: You might want to standardize the spelling of your name. The front page has BG BrandLab, the foreword is by BG Brandlab, and the sign-off is The BG Brand Labs Team. Details, people.)

The sort-of masthead that was small in the first insert is positively minuscule in this one.

 

 

See that tiny band at the bottom? That’s it.

Other differences: There are a couple of bylined articles; “Provided by” has mostly turned into “Sponsored by” (one of them is on election security from Brianna Wu, although it does not identify her as a primary challenger to Stephen Lynch in Massachusetts’ 8th district – bad investment); and the Knowledge Partners on the front page – the National Cyber Security Alliance and Mitre – don’t have ads inside.

Oh, yes – and the whole thing looks a lot more like an editorial section than the first one.

But at least those two inserts are marginally transparent about being marketing material. Far worse was last month’s Globe wet kiss to Boston Children’s Hospital in the form of A 150th Anniversary Special Issue. It’s just the latest instance of the Globe’s playing footsie with BCH over the past few years, although it’s an especially egregious one in that it required the participation of the Globe newsroom.

It’s one puff piece after another, interspersed with dozens of costly congratulatory ads.

But no mention in those 68 pages of the hospital’s wanton destruction of the beloved Prouty Garden, or the battle over the hospital’s questionable expansion to service a projected – but by no means assured – international clientele.

 

To recap:

The BG BrandLab inserts strike us as Misdemeanor Misleading. The BCH 150th anniversary issue was Felony Failure of editorial integrity.

Court is adjourned.


Boston Globe’s Wet Kiss to Children’s: Rx for $$$

September 30, 2019

As the hardreading staff unfolded its Boston Sunday Globe yesterday, we encountered this notice at the bottom of Page One.

Except . . .

We also encountered this 68-page magazine nestled inside the paper.

 

 

Must be an advertising supplement for Boston Children’s Hospital, we thought, given its relentlessly sunny-side-up Table of Contents.

 

 

But, actually, the magazine was produced by Boston Globe staffers.

 

 

It’s one puff piece after another, interspersed with dozens of costly congratulatory ads.

But no mention in those 68 pages of the hospital’s wanton destruction of the beloved Prouty Garden, or the battle over the hospital’s questionable expansion to service a projected – but by no means assured – international clientele.

(To be clear graf goes here)

To be clear, this isn’t the first time the Globe has played footsie with BCH. As we previously noted:

Boston Globe $hilling Again for Children’s Hospital

This is getting really flagrant.

As the hardreading staff has noted multiple times, the Boston Globe has put on a full-court press over the past week promoting the proposed expansion of Boston Children’s Hospital.

Last week it was an op-ed piece from former Massachusetts Taxpayer Foundation president Michael Widmer urging state officials to get off their duffs and approve the expansion, already. Problem was, the Globe failed to mention that Widmer sits on the hospital’s Board Committee for Community Service.

On Sunday, this Globe editorial urged the state’s Public Health Council to approve the project.

Now today comes this op-ed by Jack Connors Jr., chairman emeritus of Partners HealthCare.

 

Not to mention the Globe’s accepting full-page ads from Children’s as it supported the hospital’s expansion on its Business pages and providing op-ed space for BCH president and CEO Sandra Fenwick to plead her case unopposed by dissenting points of view, of which there have been many.

(To be fair graf goes here)

To be fair, newspapers routinely produce vehicles largely designed to draw advertisers. This one just seems a little, well, germy.


Boston Globe Likely Didn’t ‘Resort’ to Pay-for-Play

April 16, 2018

One of our splendid readers alerted the hardreading staff to an interesting twofer in yesterday’s Boston Sunday Globe.

First, this “suspiciously glowing” review of RiverWalk Resort in New Hampshire, which ran on Page One of the Travel section.

 

 

Then this full-page ad on page three of the Address section.

 

 

Splendid reader asks: “Coincidence?”

Most certainly not, although not in the way you might think. We’re guessing the piece begat the ad, rather than the other way around.

(To be sure graf goes here)

To be sure, the $tately local broadsheet has played footsie with its advertisers on numerous occasions, as the hardtsking staff has repeatedly noted.

So we’re not saying pay-for-play is entirely out of the question; we just don’t think that’s the case here.


Boston Globe Auctions Off More of Its News Pages

March 12, 2018

As the hardreading staff dolefully noted over the past few years, the Boston Globe’s editorial content has increasingly been playing footsie with marketing partners ranging from Suffolk University to Steward Health Care System to Rockland Trust to the Star Wars franchise.

Now comes Cross Insurance to “present” this page in yesterday’s Boston Sunday Globe Arts section.

 

 

(To be sure graf goes here)

To be sure, the hardreading staff has seen no Cross Insurance tit-for-tad in the $tately local broadsheet. But there is this sponsored content produced by BG BrandLab, the Globe’s in-house shop for producing ads in sheep’s clothing.

 

 

Yes yes – we’re aware that a disclosure line sits atop the website, albeit as inconspicuously as possible.

And if you click on the Information doohickey, this drops down.

 

 

Raise your hand if you ever click on that doohickey. Yeah, us neither.

Regardless of the level of transparency, we’re just uneasy overall about attaching financial interests to editorial content.

Never the twain should meet, right?

Or are we just hopelessly out of date?


Boston Globe Still Pump$ CITGO Sign Sans Disclosure

March 13, 2017

As the hardreading staff has relentlessly noted for the past year, the Boston Globe is playing financial footsie with Citgo over the Venezuelan oil company’s  quest to obtain landmark status for its iconic Kenmore Square sign.

The $tately local broadsheet has run numerous news reports on the sign’s endangered status and numerous Citgo-purchased ads like this one pleading for the sign’s protection.

 

 

(The hardcounting staff previously estimated that Citgo has spent five figures on Globe ads. We’re a moron. It’s probably more like $200,000.)

Saturday’s Globe featured a slightly mixed reaction from readers in the paper’s latest Citgo-no-go editorial offering.

 

 

 

Then, as night follows day, Sunday’s Globe featured this full-throated Citgo ad.

 

 

The Globe’s resolute refusal to disclose its financial interest in the Citgo sign rumpus is just one more sign of the paper’s increasingly questionable efforts to generate new revenues.

We totally get the Globe’s need to find new sources of revenue to keep the paper afloat.

What we don’t get is its willingness to risk editorial integrity to achieve that goal.

P.S. Citgo has run exactly zero ads in the Boston Herald so far. Maybe the thirsty local tabloid needs to sign up its newsroom, eh?


Another Advertising UMassage at the Boston Globe

March 19, 2015

As the hardreading staff has repeatedly noted, the University of Massachusetts has slowly been colonizing the Boston Globe, stamping itself on the stately local broadsheet like Marty Walsh on City of Boston signage.

Today’s bit of UMasstery:

 

Screen Shot 2015-03-19 at 2.16.35 PM

 

If it feels a little unseemly how much UMass and the Globe are joined at the hip pocket, Erin Smith’s Boston Herald piece today only makes it unseemlier.

Institute contractors hit up for Globe mag

UMass PR firm solicited ads for Ted K tribute

IMG_7925.JPG

The public relations company representing the University of Massachusetts Building Authority, which hired firms to build the new Kennedy Institute, has acknowledged it solicited those contractors for pricey ads in an upcoming Boston Globe commemorative magazine section.

Julie Kahn, an executive with Regan Communications, said she used a list of vendors provided by the institute, named for the late U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, to make the sales calls for the ads, which started at $15,000 for a half-page.

 

So. Regan Communications has as clients: 1) the UMass Building Authority, a public agency that “financed and oversaw construction of the Kennedy Institute on the UMass Boston campus;” and 2) the Boston Globe, which is publishing “a special section to mark the opening of the Institute.”

So. Regan Communications gets from one client a list of companies involved in the construction of the Institute and uses it on behalf of its other client to solicit paid ads to celebrate said building.

How convenient.

But . . . how appropriate?

Kahn to the Herald: “It went out to everyone they did business with — everyone who profited. I don’t see a conflict. I was just given a list by the EMK Institute that they wanted me to contact. When you do a roast or someone retires, you call all your vendors to give back. This is very common in this business.”

In the PR business, yes. The question here is about the journalism business.

More of Kahn’s defense:

“A lot of contractors were on that list and most of them said, ‘No, we can’t afford it,’ ” she said. “A handful said yes and 80 or 90 percent said no. If there was pressure, I think we would have had a lot more success.”

 

Fine, but that doesn’t speak to propriety either. Competence, maybe, but not propriety.

(To be sure graf goes here.)

To be sure, the headscratching staff hasn’t settled on whether this mishegoss is the stuff of misdemeanor or felony. We lean toward the former, though. Certainly, it doesn’t sink to the level of the Los Angeles Times/Staples Center train wreck back in 1999.

Even so, given how much the Globe and UMass are playing footsie these days, it really doesn’t look – or smell – all that good for the mately local broadsheet.