Mocking the Victims — which questioned the judgment of the most attractive, most luxurious, most upscale Sunday magazine of the nation’s most important, most accomplished, most informative newspaper — brought this reply from the folks at EILEEN FISHER, Inc., a most loyal, most fashionable, most successful advertiser:
Dear Mr. Herman
We read your comments regarding the placement of our ad in The New York Times Magazine on August 27, 2006 and would like to respond.
In a news medium, advertisers are not notified of editorial content in advance. This practice of separating advertising from editorial ensures that we as citizens are granted a free and unbiased press. Without such publications as The New York Times who consistently cover difficult and sometimes tragic stories, our country would be, in our view, at a loss.
EILEEN FISHER has supported the outstanding journalism in The Times for ten years. The integrity of the paper and its magazine is something we deeply value. We are proud to support it through our advertising dollars.
As a socially conscious company, EILEEN FISHER is dedicated to supporting women through social initiatives that address their well-being and to practicing business responsibly with absolute regard for human rights. While we focus on women’s issues, we also support disaster relief. As a company EILEEN FISHER gave $50,000 to the Red Cross and matched $17,090 in employee gifts to support the efforts in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. In addition, more than 30 boxes of clothing and office supplies were sent to those affected by this horrible disaster.
We would have appreciated a request for clarification prior to the publication of your thoughts. If you have any further questions, please contact me.
Vice President of Communication
EILEEN FISHER, Inc.
Ms. Old has a point. In fact, the company even has a Director of Social Consciousness. But I’m not sure how she squares these two statements: “In a news medium, advertisers are not notified of editorial content in advance” and “We would have appreciated a request for clarification prior to the publication of your thoughts.” Nor am I sure of what she or the Director of Social Consciousness think about this particular case of lousy judgment now that they’ve seen it, since they haven’t said. Neither has The Times or its ombudsman.
By the way, I wasn’t the only one jarred by the placement of four luxurious ad pages for Eileen Fisher “Alive in the World” clothing smack in the middle of an essay and photo spread on children orphaned by Hurricane Katrina. One former creative director of a top worldwide ad agency messaged in response to the item that he, too, “noticed the same disconcerting juxtaposition.”
For the record, though nobody asked: EILEEN FISHER, Inc., which reportedly began on $350, had “over $195 million in 2005 sales,” according to the Simmons School of Management, in Boston, Mass., and was picked no less than three times by HR Magazine (published by the Society for Human Resource Management) as one of the “Best 25 Medium Sized Companies to Work for in America.”
P.S: A reader writes:
When I read the original post, it struck me as a little unfair to isolate this one case without pointing out that this happens all the time. It’s uncouth on the part of the NYT’s art directors, and this may be an egregious example, but you see it almost every time you pick up the paper.
I’ll never forget once seeing an ad — years ago — for women’s lingerie alongside the story of some Indian fakir who burned himself alive in protest of something or other. (Perhaps he was protesting the world takeover by Victoria’s Secret?) Also, it makes me think of how Benetton Colors used to use this exact same sort of juxtaposition — only deliberately, in a conscious effort to shock.