Hard Being Good - Worthy Causes But Unworthy Ads
By Martin Schrader,
Publisher of Harpers Bazaar Magazine
It happens every month. We don't get an ad we were so sure to get because
(check one): The creative has been rejected by the client's wife.
made in Italy is held up by U.S. Customs. There's an urgent "we have
to pay our junk bond interest" budget slash and,
even though we don't
allow a cancellation after closing, the ad's not ready and we can't do
anything about it.
Or, more simply,
we have 31 ads to fit into a 32-page form. Happens
all the time. So, there's a hole in the issue to be patched over with a
Then comes the question: which one?
We can promote our own magazine or one or more members of our corporate
family with a
subscription pitch. But they work best with return cards
and we don't always have one ready. Or, circulation says it's the wrong
month to sell subscriptions anyway.
We can herald a future issue or tell our readers about a special service
upcoming Beauty Sampler or our 800 Style Line "where to buy
Most of the time, since Hearst preaches and practices Corporate Good
Citizenship, we turn to the
long list of charities and causes who constantly
ask for free ad space.
But-if only the people
who prepare the ads would look once in a while
at the magazines they want to use and try to match their
creative to the
spirit of the other ads and the editorial content. What a difference it
Over and again, we must reject well-meaning ads from most worthy causes
because well-they're ugly.
That's the only word for them. Here we are,
trying to create a beautiful magazine for women who want to be
themselves (and we both spend a fortune on it). And our advertisers invest
hundreds of thousands of
dollars of their money in the best creative concepts,
the best models, the best photography, the best retouching
and copy and
type and quality film, to say nothing of the space.
Along comes Disease X, Cause Y and Foundation Z
with big, bold, lack,
brash, brassy, buckeye layouts best suited to handbills, circus posters
and shopping sheets.
And, they want free space facing Ralph Lauren or Calvin Klein or Yves
Saint Laurent or Estee Lauder or
Chanel or our Editor's prize winning photo
Perhaps I exaggerate a little. But, with a few exceptions, the average
charity filler just doesn't work well
in our kind of environment. We want
to help. We do help. But the message would work with greater effectiveness
were designed with the nature of the medium and the market in mind.
It must be possible for America's great creative
minds to develop ads for
even the most shocking themes -- drugs, AIDS, child abuse, for example
-- which get the
message across with some better sense of design, balance,
And that reminds me: Most of these causes
must have very poor PR policies.
Only once in the 24 years that I've had the title "Publisher"
my name -- just once -- has a charitable group said "thank you,"
to me at least, for a free ad. And that was a
long time ago. The Girl Scouts
of America had a PR director who meticulously sent me a letter and a box
Scout Cookies (of blessed, caloric memory) every time we ran one
of her messages. But she must have retired, because all
is silence after
they ask for space and get it.
Hello out there, all you others.
Your appeals all say "thanking
you in advance." How's about a word of appreciation -- not to me but
to all the magazines who support you -- after the fact? We're human, too.
To paraphrase Eliza Doolittle's Dad: "We're willin' to 'elp you,
we're wantin' to 'elp you, we're
waitin' to 'elp you." Just help us
by designing ads for our audience. And say thanks once in a while.
No cookies, please.
Schrader was publisher of Harper's Bazaar, New York.