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.
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 furriesĀ  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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Mr. Salmon, Are you quite sure that the individual on the right is female? As I look at it, I am not sure. (OK, I *think* it’s male, but I’m not sure either.)

Posted by Apikoros | Report as abusive

are you sure that the one on the right is a “hot babe” ?

Posted by aka_ces | Report as abusive

the literate are not alway visually literate.

Posted by aka_ces | Report as abusive

As a strict aside (It is not my kink and I am not responding to Ms. Chaudhuri’s request!), one of the beauties of furry culture is that it blurs the lines. “Top/bottom” does definitely *not* equal “male/female”! While the sex of the person wearing a costume may be obvious (mostly because the wearer wants it that way), that husky-voiced tiger you’ve spent the evening talking to may turn out to be of either sex, but will almost certainly be a “top”!

Posted by Apikoros | Report as abusive

Felix is so equal opportunities that a man in a tiger suit can be a hot babe too. Good on you, Salmon.

Posted by ottorock | Report as abusive

O.K. Is anyone else (besides me) wondering why Felix Salmon is annoyed with @hblodget’s tweet from over a year ago? I’m annoyed with ANY cultural piece on furries, myself.

Posted by flippant | Report as abusive

I would have to stare very hard at that picture to see the stubble line on the tiger–and then I still might be more inclined to believe that it’s shadow.

One way or the other, it’s airbrushed. And if I have to spend that much time on the picture, I’m going to forget the text. So I’m inclined–YMMV–to argue that it’s a bad advert, since the conversation six months from now is going to be:

Felix: “Remember the WSJ’s ‘furries’ ad? With the hot babes–one of whom might be male–kissing?”

Ken: “I remember the picture. Was that a WSJ advert?”

Felix: “Yes. For their ‘Human Street Journal’ publication.”

Ken: “Oh, yeah. Whatever happened to that?”

Posted by klhoughton | Report as abusive

As one of those interviewed by Ms. Chaudhuri, I assure you that there are plenty of reasons for the WSJ to write about us. Indeed, there was enough for both the Financial Times and the BBC to articles in past years: edia_coverage

Perhaps Reuters will be next?

Posted by GreenReaperLP | Report as abusive