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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, spirited.

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," Warne said.

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. By professionals.

 

Published in SOURCES May-June 1980

 



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