The editors at the Detroit Free Press and The Detroit News no doubt irritated countless readers today when they published a print edition that covered up the front page with a full-page advertisement promoting the newest shoes produced by controversial rapper Kanye West for Adidas.
A four-page wraparound enveloping Section A of both papers, front and back, with the real newspaper stuffed inside, has to represent one of the most bizarre moments in Michigan journalism history.
The front pages devoted to West’s newest Yeezy shoes (which will retail for $220) contained nothing except a nebulous photo of people wearing the sneakers and the words “We love,” printed in numerous languages, including various non-English alphabets, as a headline. The subsequent pages of the ad included the same message, over and over again, paragraph after paragraph, throughout the text.
In addition to the two Detroit publications, other major newspapers that agreed to surrender their front page to the shoe ad include the Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, Miami Herald, New York Post and Los Angeles Times.
Unfortunately, advertising wraparounds that produce big revenues are not unique among Michigan papers in recent years. Two years ago, the Free Press yielded its front page to a four-page Chevrolet ad. In addition, “gatefold” wraparounds that block a portion of the front page have become routine among the Detroit papers and in suburban publications such as The Macomb Daily and Oakland Press.
But the extraordinarily confusing way in which today’s shoe ad was presented, likely a concept favored by the eccentric West, is simply off the charts. Without the slightest form of explanation, other than a website address for Yeezy, the advertisement was almost certainly confusing to nearly all readers of the two papers.
Accompanying news story promotes West’s career moves
The Detroit News included a short news story about the ad that, suspiciously, included several promotional details about West, husband of Kim Kardashian. The story explained that the rapper’s newest shoes are preposterously named the “triple white” Yeezy Boost 350 V2. But the news item quickly added this:
“In June, West released his eighth studio album, “Ye,” along with “Kids See Ghosts,” a collaborative album with Kid Cudi. On Sept. 29, West is due to appear as the musical guest on the season premiere of “Saturday Night Live.” The same day, he’s set to release “Yandhi,” the follow-up to “Ye.”
The Free Press also carried a story on the ad that was more mundane. But the Freep, as its known in journalism circles, also suffered quite an embarrassment today beyond the shoe ad.
For much of the day, while the only item on Page One of the printed paper was the unveiling of a new shoe, the Freep’s “Michigan Politics” web page went haywire and there seemed to be no urgency to fix it.
All 15 of the top stories on the page dated back to before the August primary election, and most were stories published by the paper in July. If readers were not confused enough about the bizarre Yeezy front page, the online state politics page reported on candidates for U.S. Senate, Congress, state House, state Senate and attorney general who have long since been eliminated from contention via the primary elections. One story about Michigan candidates seeking congressional seats dated to December of last year.
Maybe the Freep folks should stick to putting out a timely, quality news product, in print and online, rather than engaging in money-making stunts that demean the paper just for the sake of earning a whole lot of bucks.
Bean counters in control
The Freep news story about the ad did not promote West’s latest career moves but it did suggest that the bean counters at Michigan.com, which jointly controls business operations and advertising sales at the Free Press and the News, have more control over the product than the editors and reporters who produce the news content.
Charlie Hunt, regional account executive for Michigan.com, seemed nearly giddy over the four-page ad created by Adidas and West’s company.
“The good thing is they are using newspapers to create buzz,” Hunt said, predicting that this newest gimmick would far exceed similar advertising tactics in the past. “I think there is more mystery in this one. It is going to get people to stop and look and think.”
Yes, maybe a lot of readers will stop and think: “Why am I subscribing to this newspaper?”