Newspapers' Standards for Acceptable Advertising

Herbert J Rotfeld, Kathleen T Lacher and Michael S LaTour

This study reports the responses from 321 newspaper publishers and advertising managers on their standards for acceptable advertising, making this one of the largest databases of newspaper advertising practices. Given the controversial nature of some advertising, the results have clear practical implications for those advertising practitioners and scholars who have concerns about newspapers as an advertising vehicle.

The literature generally refers to media vehicles' acceptance of advertising as a form of advertising control (eg, Krugman et al, 1994; Heighton and Cunningham, 1984; Limburg, 1989; Rotfeld, 1992a; Zanot, 1985; Zanot and Rotfeld, 1983). In fact, such control is the basis of a relatively recent controversy surrounding Philip Morris USA (PM) and Knight-Ridder (Advertising Age, 1995). Knight-Ridder's newly revised advertising guidelines for its newspaper publications would result in rejection of certain types of Newport and Camel ads. PM executives fired back with their own 'salvo,' indicating that they will not let newspaper publishers 'dictate' the content of their advertising and indicating they might even withhold ad spending for non-cigarette products from the offending newspaper chain. But as Advertising Age publisher Crain (1995) pointed out in a companion column to the editorial, newspapers are not common carriers and therefore can reject any ad they do not wish to carry. The only difference in this case is that Knight-Ridder is more public than most with a policy that could have direct implications for a large conglomerate firm that is one of the nation's largest advertisers.