WSJ branding datapoint of the day

By Felix Salmon
September 19, 2011

Last year, I kicked off quite a big fight with Henry Blodget after posting this to Twitter.

.@hblodget‘s business model: Take a story about M&A fees associated with AIG. Illustrate with 2 hot babes kissing. http://bit.ly/dexECw
Mar 26 10 via TweetDeck Favorite Retweet Reply

 

The Business Insider post in question was illustrated with a black-and-white photo, 400 pixels wide. It was provocative and gratuitous, but it was nothing compared with this:

This is a full-page, full-color ad on page 8 of last week’s New York magazine; apparently it’s appeared in Time, as well.

I’m not even going to hazard a guess as to the thinking behind this ad; its timing does however coincide vaguely with an online request from Saabira Chaudhuri, a WSJ reporter who says that she’s “writing a culture piece on furries” and is “interested in furry couples who have got together using furrymate”.

All of this is, frankly, quite a few steps beyond anything even Blodget would have considered acceptable. Running titillating stories about furries is one thing (although there’s no good reason for the WSJ to write about furries  in the first place.) But branding your entire publication with a huge full-color photo of two hot babes* in animal costumes, kissing — well, one does wonder who the intended audience for this ad is, and what they’re likely to think if and when they actually pick up a copy of the WSJ, only to find a decided lack of this kind of photography.

Rupert Murdoch’s fingerprints are all over this ad — this is exactly the kind of photo that his Sunday Times loves to splash with great prominence, in its perennial attempt to boost circulation at all costs. And I half suspect that the real audience for the ad is not the readership of Time or New York so much as it is the WSJ’s own reporters and editors — people who now know exactly what’s expected of them.

In any case, Henry, feel free to go ahead and break out the hot-babes-kissing pics at any and every opportunity. If it’s OK by the WSJ, this is clearly a battle I’ve lost.

*Update: My commenters reckon that the hot babe on the right is actually a male hot babe. They might well be right.

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