Opinion

Felix Salmon

Media buy of the day, World AIDS Day edition

By Felix Salmon
December 1, 2011

Visiting the Atlantic’s website this morning, I was presented with a roadblock interstitial ad for Chevron, which has taken over the home page for the day. Well done to the Atlantic’s ad-sales team for the deal! But this one is particularly interesting, because clicking on the link in the roadblock took me not to Chevron’s site, but rather to a nonce site put together by the Atlantic for World AIDS Day. In fact, it barely even qualifies as a site: it’s just the category page for all Atlantic posts which have been tagged “AIDS”, with a “World AIDS Day” banner slapped on the top.

But category pages can be powerful and useful things, especially on a day like today when the media conspires to force the public’s attention on one issue. (Bono’s op-ed in the NYT is upbeat, but I’d highly recommend that you read instead George W Bush’s op-ed in the WSJ, complete with a Tanzanian dateline. The global fight against AIDS was the greatest triumph of his presidency, and he’s still fighting the good fight — hard.)

It’s silly to assume, 30 years after AIDS was discovered in Los Angeles, that the best and most germane material on the subject is the stuff that is being published today. In a spirit of openness, I would have liked to see the Atlantic linking to a whole slew of great stories on AIDS from its Chevron-sponsored page, rather than just the posts it’s managed to come up with internally over the past couple of years. Still, some of them are great, like this one from November 2009 about an effort to give HIV-positive Rwandans the kind of nutrition they need to make antiretroviral drugs work.

And it’s fantastic that Chevron is smart enough to realize that if it wants to be recognized as a player in the fight against AIDS, then it’s better to let people read the original reporting of the Atlantic than it is to try to get people to read about its own initiatives on its own website.

I don’t know how often big roadblock ads end up linking to a site other than the advertiser’s, but this is encouraging for me: it’s exactly what I’ve been asking for. And with any luck, the attention on AIDS today will make some small difference in the fight to keep up funding for The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria.

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