Print product placement a hard sell

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What if a magazine offered to integrate advertising into its editorial, and nobody bought?

One early stab at print's answer to branded entertainment is off to a slow start. Inside TV, a spinoff of TV Guide that offers "content integration" ad programs, has published 11 issues so far but still has few takers for its novel-and controversial-approach.

NO ONE PAYS COVER CHARGE

No one has bought a sponsorship of polls tied to a given week's cover story; no marketer has paid to place its logo inside the "Get This Look" editorial box; and no advertisers have agreed to create an "inside deal" promotional offer to appear in the magazine's "Who's Wearing What" coverage.

Marketers have gravitated to another innovation that Inside TV calls an island ad unit. The ads appear in the center of the magazine's program listings, surrounded on four sides by editorial copy.

Inside TV has sold islands to TNT, to promote shows like "The Closer"; Fox, which advertised the "American Idol" finale and its animated Sunday night lineup; UPN, which hyped the debut of "Britney and Kevin: Chaotic"; and CBS, which has promoted programs like "Without a Trace."

"They have done a very good job integrating advertising into the flow of their content," said George Schweitzer, president, CBS Marketing Group. "People talk about zapping through commercials on TV, but you can zip through ads in a magazine. There's no difference."

FEW TAKERS

The majority of the 10 to 15 ad pages per issue in the magazine, however, are standard slicks from entertainment companies as well as marketers like Fruit of the Loom, Fiji Water and Campbell Soup. Inside TV, which guarantees advertisers a circulation of 400,000, targets female readers with a mix of celebrity coverage and targeted TV listings.

Inside TV executives insist advertisers are interested in the untapped "spotlight partnerships." But the lack of buyers-so far-for its edgier offerings seems surprising in light of some recent statements from marketers.

"On television, branded entertainment is providing marketers intriguing ways to integrate message with content," said Robert Liodice, president-CEO of the Association of National Advertisers, at a recent print advertising conference. "Print has been slow to embrace this exciting new advertising medium." Media executives at Sears, Roebuck & Co. and Toyota Motor Co. have also complained about the lack of branded entertainment opportunities in magazines.

Inside TV also has had the calendar working against it; it began publishing in April, after most advertisers' plans were already in place. "It's not the easiest time of the year for a new publication to sell big programs," said Beth Fidoten, senior VP-director of print services at Initiative.

Marketers also want to tread carefully on the relationship between readers and magazines."We don't want to corrupt the edit," said Jason Trubowitz, VP-communications planning director, Mediacom.

Inside TV's integration programs do run afoul of guidelines created by the American Society of Magazine Editors. "An advertiser's name or logo may not be used on any editorial pages to suggest advertising sponsorship of those pages, nor should any editorial page be labeled as `sponsored' or `brought to you' by an advertiser," the guideline says.

"It doesn't really matter to me what they think," said Editor in Chief Steven LeGrice.

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