Nothing Sacred: 11 Magazines to Run Fake Covers for NBC          

[responsive]TV NBC's Blacklist Blitz[/responsive]“The Blacklist” is a breakout hit for NBC and its star, James Spader. And to further cement its popularity, NBC has convinced at least 11 major magazines to run fake covers on their upcoming issues.

“Starting this week, magazines like Playboy and Wired will burnish back covers that appear to make Raymond ‘Red’ Reddington, the anti-hero at the center of ‘The Blacklist,’ the subject,” writes Brian Steinberg in Variety.

“In days to come, New York, GQ, People, The New Yorker, Time, Entertainment Weekly, Us Weekly, Vanity Fair and Rolling Stone will all feature covers starring the character – all as part of an ad campaign from NBC to drum up attention for the show’s new season, which starts September 22. The covers, each customized for the magazine on which they appear, are ads; the real covers will be hidden underneath.” Steinberg continues.

“In years past, consumer magazines and other print publishers might have avoided such stuff. While giving advertisers an overlay cover to place over the real one is a practice that has long been embraced by trade publications, it has been viewed more warily by their consumer-audience counterparts,” notes Steinberg.

This spring we reported on Time magazine breaking the long-held taboo of advertising on the front cover, but this newest campaign from NBC takes the debate from advertising to farce. The American Society of Magazine Editors has previously come down hard on magazines that cross the line from editorial to advertising on their covers, but it seems their dander has died down in the face of the glut of native advertising and sponsored content in the industry in 2014.

“As TV networks allow their advertisers to insert products into TV shows and mentions of them into scripts – and enlist actors and actresses from the programs to help hype the goods in commercial breaks – print outlets face increased pressure to provide similar service,” writes Steinberg. And with lower traditional ad page sales, publishers are under increasing pressure to sell space.

Thanks to the publicity this campaign is pulling, TV ad buyers are enthusiastically getting on board.

Okay, so it’s a devastatingly creative and witty idea, and will garner a lot of publicity for the show, plus undoubtedly a nice fat promotion for the person who thought of it. But at what cost? Editorial integrity, once given away, is not easy to rebuild.

Somewhere in New York City a magazine editor is quietly crying into her martini.