If there's one thing the media business does well, it's behave badly. I'm not talking about the kind of stuff attacked by groups such as the American Family Association, which sent members a letter this month blasting Redbook for encouraging a "pagan, hedonistic lifestyle." No, I'm talking about a mess of more plausibly dubious practices, from complaining in victory to running tobacco ads even though you're ashamed. This behavior comes easily to us. But even if we do wrong a lot, we could always do wrong better. So here are some tips for your week.
Don't' Let Us Glimpse Your Thinnest Skin.Condé Nast Portfolio had originally hoped to feature Tom Freston in its installment of the Condé Nast "Point of Passion" ad campaign.
Although he denied this last week, insiders said Mr. Freston backed out of negotiations because of an item in Portfolio's first issue called "The Goldenest Parachutes." It reported that he, among others with "ridiculously rich exit packages," got $85 million when he had to leave Viacom last September. "The stock price slumped, and he failed to push online expansion aggressively enough," the Portfolio article said. "Losing MySpace to News Corp. was the last straw." (In an e-mail, Mr. Freston told Ad Age: "They had asked me, I just decided I wasn't the product endosement type. It was not due to that item.")
It's perfectly bad-ass for Mr. Freston to retaliate, but it also reveals an interest in image-control that's unnecessary in a wealthy, much-loved former executive. Better to cry into a pillow stuffed with high-denomination greenbacks. Plus, Portfolio is now giving the exposure to Strauss Zelnick, chairman of companies including Take-Two Interactive Software and Columbia Music Entertainment of Japan.
Don't Run Cigarette Ads in Your Magazine Unless You're Willing to Stand Up For Yourself When Challenged.A bevy of women's magazines have been failing on this front since June, when 41 members of Congress sent an open letter accusing them of complicity in women's deaths from smoking, particularly because their readers include so many young women and girls under 18.
None would defend themselves in the press. Why not come to the phone and suggest, for example, that your readers are sophisticated enough to make their own choices about a legal product? Apparently the publishers aren't very proud of their business with tobacco.