The Les Mills Pro-GE Advertorial Mystery
By Anne Else and Alastair Thompson
When is an ad not an ad? And should an advertiser be required to say who they are when they place an advert?
Under the prominent heading “NEWS”, two strongly pro-GE feature articles have appeared in a “Heath and Fitness” lift-off supplement wrapping a number of free community papers around the country in the past week.
While accompanying photos are sourced to Reuters, the articles themselves have no byline or source attributed, and the person responsible for the front-page advertisement claims to have no knowledge of who selected the advertorial copy.
The two articles are headed “Genetically enhanced corn cleared in 17 food reactions” and “Pig cells may produce diabetes breakthrough”.
The supplement has been carried in Wellington’s Western News (circ approx 14,000) and Cook Strait News (circ approx 30,000), published by Capital Community Newspapers, part of the Wilson and Horton community newspaper group). They carry the words “advertorial feature” in small print at the top of each page.
Scoop understands that in Auckland editions of the same advertisements, these words did not appear.
The named sponsor of the advert is Les Mills World of Fitness.
When asked about the advert a spokesman for Extreme Nutrition Limited Jonathan Pickens, whose advert appears on the front of the advert wraparound, initially said the stories had been selected by the publication.
When informed that this was not the case he promised to seek out more information about the origin of the two articles.
Western News Editor Peter Bartlett said he was expecting the booked supplements to deal only with “gym programmes, exercise equipment, that sort of thing”.
When he saw the GE-related content, he checked first with the advertising section which had booked them, and which operates independently of the editor.
Then he “double-checked” with the Newspaper Publishers Association. Both said there was no problem with the adverts.
However, Mr Bartlett had the words “advertorial feature” inserted.
“My hands were tied – I had to run the supplement” he told Scoop. Inserting these words was , “all I could do”, to make it clear that the contents were a paid advertisement, not straight news.
This supplement is the first of a series. Scoop understands Capital Community Newspapers will receive a total of $40,000 for running them.