Express rapped by ASA for paid-for editorial - Press Gazette

Express rapped by ASA for paid-for editorial

The Advertising Standards Agency has rebuked the Daily Express for allowing advertisers to control editorial content.

The advertising watchdog upheld three complaints against the Daily Express after finding the newspaper was “routinely publishing” features in which the top half of a page presented editorial on a product while the bottom half featured an ad that contained additional information on the same product.

The ASA said over the course of ten weeks the Express featured almost identical pages about an arthritis treatment called Copper Heeler on four occasions.

It said the top half contained an article relating to the use of the product by the mother of TV celebrity Christopher Biggins. The articles were accompanied by a photograph of Biggins and an ad for the company underneath.

The ASA said that pattern was repeated as over a six-week period two almost identical pages on weight-loss product LIPObind appeared in the pages of the Express, and that a similar strategy was used with menopausal symptoms treatment, LadyCare, three times in a two-month period.

The ASA said: “The articles were always, and uniquely, favourable to the product featured in the accompanying ad and contained claims that have been or would be likely to be prohibited in advertisements… whilst it was normal for advertising copy to be repeated on different dates, it was unusual for genuine editorial pieces to appear in the same or similar form in the same publication on different dates.”

In all three cases Express Newspapers told the ASA its reporter Alison Coleman had followed “usual journalistic practice” of speaking to the companies as part of her research then sent them finished text to “check for factual inaccuracies”.

Express Newspapers said the journalist had not been paid by the three advertisers – Orthotics Online, Goldshield and LadyCare – and the companies had no right to change the text.

The watchdog said claims made on behalf of all the advertisers were misleading and despite style differences between the ads and editorial, readers would understand the entire page to be a feature on the product.

“By using that approach, the publisher and advertiser were intentionally attempting to circumvent the code by asserting the top of the pages were not advertising.

“We concluded the routine publication of these pages and the nature of the articles strongly suggested a commercial arrangement existed between the newspaper and the advertiser and that the advertiser exerted a sufficient degree of control over the content of the articles to warrant the term ‘Advertisement feature’ or the like being placed above the articles.”

The ASA, which separately upheld complaints against all three advertisers, told the Express to ensure its advertorials were identified as advertisement features in future.


4 thoughts on “Express rapped by ASA for paid-for editorial”

  1. Do shut up, simonjenkins. If you don’t get it, you don’t qualify to comment. This shocking blindness to the principle at stake here is worrying because it nourishes the idea that there is no need to draw a line between advertising and editorial.
    Ad features, and indeed ads skewed to look like editorial, con newspaper buyers who have a right to know when they are getting a service of news, features, sport and city – and when they are reading sales talk. Advertorials are an uncomfortable fudge; no principled journalist has a lot to do with them if they can be avoided.
    Advertorial MUST be clearly marked “Bullshit” – sorry, “Advertisement Feature”. (Attention freebie-takers: A lot of chummy holiday features should carry the same slug, by the way).
    Oddly, I suppose it is a compliment to journalists that advertisers employ editorial techniques to promote their snake-oil.
    The comparison with Martin Lewis’s site seems confused and, I think, invidious. If the posted comment is accurate, Lewis’s practice is as bad as the Express deceit. It’s hardly objective journalism if he is paid only by companies who sell on the back of his work.
    The Express claim about “usual journalistic practice” is a ghastly admission. A journalist talks to the paying company, then sends her stuff to that company to be checked? Usual yes; journalistic no.
    The ASA’s view is encouraging; I can’t recall similar condemnation from the Guild of Editors, the PCC or the NUJ. I’ve known editors fume and rant against the advertorial deception. Hmmm…long while ago now.

  2. Has everyone gone mad?1) Why did reporter Alison Coleman allow this to happen? If she is acting as an advertising copywriter she should make sure she is paid an advertising copywriter’s fee, which I imagine is a lot more than a jobbing hack on the Express gets these days.2) Why are the companies – Orthotics Online, Goldshield and LadyCare – not being charged for advertorial, as well as advertising space. If this is the case then Richard Desmond should be asking some serious questions of his advertising team and their commerciual savvy and of his commercial seniors like Stan Myerson?3) And the advertisers? What are they bothering to buy advertising space for if they are getting free puff editorial anyway? It’s a complete waste of their money.4) And the editor? Doesn’t he realise that readers hate little more than being sold to in this way. Over 13 years in customer publishing has taught me that the worst way to promote a company’s products is to puff it. Readers are intelligent, and realise where a customer publication is coming from. They therefore don’t expect the journalism within to attack the client company’s products, but they do expect it to be informed and informative. Having not read any of the articles in question I have no idea if this was tha case, but for the matter to have been escalated to the ASA I can only assume the journalism didn’t make up for its lack of integrity.

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