January 20, 2013

Screw-up at The Atlantic leads to inane corporate memo.

Perhaps you noticed the screw-up: The Atlantic ran an article promoting Scientology — "David Miscavige Leads Scientology to Milestone Year" — with a little "sponsored content" notation. Jumped on, they took it down and apologized. Now we get this inane corporate memo from the company's president M. Scott Havens:
We ran a “native advertising” campaign for a new advertiser that, while properly labeled as Sponsor Content, was in my opinion inconsistent with the strategy and philosophy for which this program is intended. In this case, we did not adequately work with the advertiser to create a content program that was in line with our brand. 
They meant to be more devious. Nice philosophy!
In addition, because we had not fully thought through the issues around commenting on Sponsor Content, we made some mistakes trying to moderate the commenting thread. The general media climate also played a role here.
No further explanation of what that "general media climate" is supposed to be. But one thing is clear: Any blame should be general:
One important note for everyone: casting blame on any group or any individual is both unfair and simply not what we do at The Atlantic. And we most certainly should not speak to the press or use social media to attack our organization or our colleagues. We are a team that rises and falls together.
Something makes me think intra-Scientology memos look like that. Well, clearly, The Atlantic is deeply into the media game of profiting from propaganda. It's great that they slipped up so obviously. Be on guard, though, because they are bent on getting it right, which is to say, doing it so you don't notice.

28 comments:

rhhardin said...

They could run on an Amazon portal.

YoungHegelian said...

One important note for everyone: casting blame on any group or any individual is both unfair and simply not what we do at The Atlantic.

This is corporate management-ese for saying that, this time, the fuck-up went right up to the very top of the organization.

Shouting Thomas said...

Seemed more like Dilbert speak to me.

There's that weird undercurrent of malice papered over with a clearly insincere effort at clarification.

Baron Zemo said...

Did the repeal freedom of religion or something?

I mean if the Catholics or the Muslims ran a sponsored ad would they have done the same thing?

I am no Scientologist but I think they have the right to advertise in this manner.

Of course they can refuse to run the ads but they sure look like bigots to me.

Oh wait. They are bigoted against someone that most people don't like. That's the ticket.

Maguro said...

Is there any other kind of corporate memo?

Wayworn Wanderer said...

"because they are bent on getting it right, which is to say, doing it so you don't notice."

So true.

edutcher said...

I used to get memos like that.

Quayle said...

Translation:

"We enthusiastically booked the revenue until it looked like it was going to jeopardize a larger amount of future revenue. Then we tried to look principled in our retreat."

"Though we try hard to sound like we have standards, we are really only about more money."

"In this case more future money was at stake, so we had to disavow today's smaller amount of money."

Paddy O said...

I though The Atlantic was an inane corporate memo.

Mary Beth said...

In addition, because we had not fully thought through the issues around commenting on Sponsor Content, we made some mistakes trying to moderate the commenting thread.

I think this was the main problem.

ByondPolitics said...

There's no need to use the word "devious" in a discussion of "Sponsor Content." Not everyone is as ham-fisted as you.

I'm surprised to see that you don't understand what is meant by "general media climate." However, it's nicely explained in the subsequent sentences and consequently is clear from the context.

rhhardin said...

Amazon has scientology office products.

John said...

Baron Zemo,

I don't think the problem was running a Scientology ad per se.

The problem was that it was dressed up to look as if it were a legit Atlantic article. Yes, there was a disclaimer but apparently not clear enough.

I suspect there would be a similar uproar if the Lutheran church did the same thing.

Advertising in any magazine must be clearly and unequivocally identified as advertising and not regular editorial content.

John Henry

John said...

Baron Zemo,

I don't think the problem was running a Scientology ad per se.

The problem was that it was dressed up to look as if it were a legit Atlantic article. Yes, there was a disclaimer but apparently not clear enough.

I suspect there would be a similar uproar if the Lutheran church did the same thing.

Advertising in any magazine must be clearly and unequivocally identified as advertising and not regular editorial content.

John Henry

Pogo said...

" the screw-up: The Atlantic ran an article promoting Scientology ...Now we get this inane corporate memo from the company's president M. Scott Havens"

The mistake was the business version of jumping on Oprah's couch.

Their remedy was the Lance Armstrong interview.

chrisnavin.com said...

Maybe the commentariat wouldn't have raised such a fuss if it had been an ad for moveon.org.

Either way, no one likes to see the innards of a media organization, apparently.

Baron Zemo said...

I don't know John Henry. Let me ask you. If a Muslim ran the same advertistment would the reaction have been the same?

I don't think so.

Baron Zemo said...

I agree that advertising should always be stated.

But they never list the news as a Barrack Obama advertisement. What's up with that?

Paco Wové said...

"no one likes to see the innards of a media organization, apparently."

There's sausage, and then there's sausage.

kentuckyliz said...

Is the original page with comments archived anywhere? I'd sure like to read that.

Jaske said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mary Beth said...

http://www.scribd.com/doc/120420141/The-Atlantic-14-January-2013-David-Miscavige-Leads-Scientology-to-Milestone-Year

Not great but legible.

Jim said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David said...

One important note for everyone: casting blame on any group or any individual is both unfair and simply not what we do at The Atlantic.

Does he read his own magazine?

gadfly said...

Closing "Sponsored Content" to readers comments might be a prudent policy. Advertising ain't advertising if comments turn negative.

It occurs to me that the Atlantic is pushing the envelope to get around Adblock Plus. As far as I am concerned, this is acceptable if we do not have to put up with pop-up and animation ads. I do no read every blog post, even at Althouse, so I can stroll right on past Scientology stuff.

kentuckyliz said...

Thanks Mary Beth. readable...but no comments! Which I think would be quite interesting.

The big crowds at the events in the photo are primarily guests and not scientologists, I'm guessing.

Kirk Parker said...

And to think The Atlantic used to be a serious magazine. A high-capacity one, even...

Peter said...

They're just reminding everyone that the magazine is in the business of selling advertising (and if it also pleases readers that's fine, but readers don't pay the bills).

Readers are not the customer, they are the product.

We all know that, but mostly prefer publishers to not remind us of that bottom-line reality.