Ad knocks journalists to boost sales
by Barrie Zwicker
TORONTO—"An open letter to one of the older professions," was
the eye-catching head of an ad in the Feb. 11 issue of The Financial
Times of Canada. "Dear Journalists," the copy opened.
My second thought, after agreeing with my editor that he could
proceed with a story on reaction of journalists to this ad, was
that it should run in Content on a paid basis.
It's advocacy advertising, which aims to promote an idea, as opposed
to a product. Advocacy advertising raises cheers or hackles. Whether
or not one agrees with the viewpoint advocated, one tends to credit
the advocacy advertiser with being public-spirited or, at least,
Wearing my ad sales hat, I called Clifford F. Haughton, head of
The Haughton Group, which created this ad. I suggested Content
as the most appropriate vehicle to carry his message to its intended
audience. Passing up Content must have heen "an oversight,"
said Haughton. Call his agency.
From Keith Warne of Keith Warne & Associates I learned there
would be no attempt to reach journalists with the "Dear Journalists"
letter, apart from a mailing to 180 on a hand-picked list.
Huh? Well, Warne explained, this "social commentary series"
(they've also attacked lawyers and educators) is designed "to
reach businessmen in a position to buy his (Cliff Haughton's) products."
You see, Cliff's products are paper boxes, business forms
and commercial lithography. These "aren't very exciting"
and it's hard to convince business people Haughton's products are
different from his competitors'.
So the advocacy ads are created to "get awareness for the Group.
They've done unbelievably well in doing that."
Especially the journalist-bashing ad. "People are jumping on
it. Most of it (the response) is from the press, most of it positive,"
Journalists, in cheering (or heckling,) the Haughton ad were drawn
into supporting roles in a charade.
The copy of the letter part of the Haughton-Warne ad concludes:
"Without the faith of the public, journalism dwindles to mere
entertainment. Whorish entertainment. By amateurs."
At The Haughton Group, understand, "professionalism is a
kind of secret ingredient in our products."
Hmmm. Maybe we need an advocacy ad discouraging the prostitution
of free speech for commercial gain. Without the faith of the public,
advocacy advertising dwindles to mere shilling. Whorish shilling.
Published in SOURCES May-June 1980
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