On the opening spread of the makeover feature, a laundry room with mud tracked across the floor, photographed and produced by Canadian House & Home editorial team, appears on the right-hand page. On the turn, the same room appears but the mud has been cleaned. A Swiffer mop leans against the counter and a line that reads “Swiffer gives cleaning a whole new meaning” accompanies the Swiffer logo.
The spread was a collaboration between House & Home and Starcom MediaVest Group, an agency that ran a similar treatment promoting Tassimmo coffee makers in Style at Home last November.
Two leading publications about advertising covered the story favourably. A story in Marketing magazine described the ad as “innovative” and quotes Christine Saunders, senior vice president and group media director for P&G agency Starcom MediaVest Group, as saying:
"Canadian House & Home was the perfect partner for this because it’s the most prestigious home decor magazine in Canada. [House & Home Media president] Lynda Reeves is the one to look for style trends. We thought if we could pull this off in Canadian House & Home, we could make an impact."
Saunders also suggested that magazines are “an ideal platform” for product placements. “It’s a wonderful medium to do surprising things.”
Media in Canada’s coverage noted “the Swiffer brand was cleverly incorporated into the mag’s ‘Makeover of the Month’ story in an integration so seamless, readers will no doubt do a double-take when they see that muddy footprints in the editorial photo have been ‘Swiffered’ out on the mirror-image next page ad pic.”
Canadian Magazines author D. B. Scott saw things differently. In a post titled, “Does House & Home ad track across ad:edit line?”, Scott called the treatment an “uncomfortably close alignment between editorial content and advertising” and suggested it seemed to “contravene several provisions of the Canadian magazine advertising-editorial guidelines,” listing these examples:
- An advertiser’s name or logo may not be used to suggest advertising sponsorship of any regularly appearing editorial.
- No advertiser may purchase product placement or mention in editorial pages, photographs or illustrations.
- Any advertisement that contains text or design elements that have an editorial appearance must be conspicuously identified with the word "advertising" or "advertisement."
Several anonymous commentators on the post also condemned the ad.
Asked for a response to Scott’s criticisms, Kirby Miller, House & Home Media’s vice president of sales and operations, replied via email:
"We are proud of the creativity and partnership we have with Starcom and Procter & Gamble’s Swiffer and Febreze in our March Issue. In large part it is our key advertisers to thank in this market for our continuing ability to affordably deliver great decorating content to our Canadian subscribers and newsstand purchasers.
"House & Home along with the rest of the magazine industry is working hard to remain economically viable in this market. As for the question of our editorial integrity, I humbly reply that I sleep very well at night knowing that our continuing commercial success allows our company to fund Magazines Canada and MagNet which both provide services to smaller publishers across Canada. Also House & Home Media has recently launched a new French title, Maison & Demeure, hired nearly 11 new people and hasn’t had a single staff layoff. From the ads are appearing on Mr. Scott’s blog it appears that both publishing employment (recruitment ad) and MagNet are important for him as well. It is good to know that we share some common ground on these fronts." Contact: www.houseandhome.com