Magazine Advertisements: Wrong Place, Wrong Time

I have a minor gripe today.  I usually like to keep this blog happy and informative, but I’ve been noticing an unfortunate trend in magazines lately.  I love magazines and have a tendency to get a subscription to just about everything: Runner’s World, Running Times, Cooking Light, HGTV, Food Network… get the drift.

Last winter I did a post about how disappointed I was with Women’s Health for being a health magazine that went and completely altered Britney Spear’s fabulous body in a picture.  It really bugged me that a “health and fitness” magazine would take a perfectly beautiful and fit body and then airbrush the heck out of her.


Then a few months ago I noticed that the back pages of Runner’s World carry a lot of advertisements.  Typically when I get to that portion of the magazine I tend to just flip through because I have generally lose interest with ads.  But I started to notice that there were a lot of advertisements for diet and weight loss pills.

This stuck me as a little bizarre.  Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely understand that magazines and other forms of media are only able to survive with the help of advertisements.  But I was pretty bummed to see that a magazine aimed at helping runners of all levels become better and more fit athletes, would have so many advertisements for pills that help you lose weight faster, or in some cases as the sole way to lose weight.

People come to running for many reasons.  Some are looking to lose weight or to become more physically fit.  Others find solace in the alone time and it clears their head.  Many are already perfectly fit, while others seek running as a way to shed pounds.  While some struggle with weight, others struggle with body image issues.  To me, it was a bummer seeing so many adds for magic pills in a magazine aimed at this diverse running population.

And then the doozy of all ads was presented to me the other night.  Rock recently flipped through a Sports Illustrated for the first time in a long while.  We were both surprised to see some of the ads in this issue.



To be very honest, I didn’t even know that you could advertise cigarettes and smokeless tobacco in magazines anymore.  I understand that this is a magazine for sport’s fans and not a magazine directly aiming to help athletes.  But I found it really bizarre to see these ads in a sports related magazine.A magazine that promotes professional sports and touches upon interviews with some of the best athletes in the world was okay with advertising carcinogenic compounds.

Let’s not forget that many young and impressionable teenage boys and girls flip through these pages at home or even in their school libraries!

To say that I was disappointed would be an understatement.  I get that companies need to advertise to stay afloat in a time when digital media has taken over.  But I wish that more of these companies and publications would consider who their market is and proceed with a tad more awareness.

What are your thoughts on magazine advertisements?  Do you even notice what is being advertised?

21 thoughts on “Magazine Advertisements: Wrong Place, Wrong Time

  1. Good points! Geez, that is disappointing! I do wish companies would be more aware of what they are putting out there and how it influences people, and not just care about the ad that’s going to pay them the most $$ to be in the magazine! Cigarette ads always amaze me. They always seem to be the most bright, colorful and interesting ads in the magazines. Then I see that it’s for cigarettes and I think, wow, can’t these designers put their obviously amazing skills towards something great?? :-/

  2. I sorta get the diet pill thing … but I think it is sad, really. Because we should be teaching people that food is fuel, there is no such thing as perfection, and that the goal should be to be ‘healthy’, not ‘skinny’, and the habits to get there.

    (oh, and I loved going back through the Britney post … remember that one well!)

    As for cigarettes, I HAVE noticed an uptick in seeing them. I get a bunch of freebie magazine subscriptions because I get so many work journals, and have things like Rolling Stone, Wired, Economist, US Weekly, and a few others … definitely a cross-section of audiences. Apparently after several years of not advertising, RJR started a couple of years ago slowly rolling out more ads – and I think that is what we’re seeing. Here are some rules I found:

    “Some of the don’ts of cigarette advertising include: no advertisements on radio or TV programs or in any magazine publications which have an audience that is under the age of 21, no advertisements on Universities, Colleges or any other Schools in their programs for theatrical performances, sport events etc., comic books cannot have any cigarette ads in them due to the age of the reading audience which is usually under the age of 21, zero cigarette samples can be passed out and given to anyone who is not 21 years old.”

    Still … it is very disappointing.

  3. I actually stopped reading magazines because of the advertisements. They make me so angry. Half the time what you see is fake, and the rest of the time what you see is just something stupid or bad for you. It’s so frustrating. I usually flip through magazines in the grocery store and don’t buy them. Occasionally, I buy a Cooks Illustrated “Best of” magazine because it’s more like a book with almost no ads. I should subscribe to RW because of my proximity to Rodale and my relationships with lots of the editiors, but I don’t. It is so disappointing!

  4. I agree with your sentiments, but I don’t think the magazines are in a position of turning down advertising dollars these days. The magazine industry is dying.

    I wish I could find the article I read that gave the history of shoe advertisements and Runner’s World. It gave a great description and explanation of why every shoe is the best shoe in Runner’s World (in short, advertising $$$). One year, they trashed a shoe, and the company pulled out all their ads in RW and RW almost went under. After that, every shoe became the best shoe for a certain type of runner.

  5. Oh wow… That really bothers me too. Sports Illustrated is read by tons of kids and it’s in really bad taste to put an add for something so unhealthy. In Runner’s World, I don’t mind the running related ones, like shoes, socks, foam rollers, etc., but weight loss through pills is really not what they should be suggesting for their readers. Yoga Journal does it too. It frustrates me to the point of not wanting to read the magazine.

  6. First, I understand the chewing tobacco more than the cigarettes. Same nicotine without harshing the lungs (that’s still chew that major leaguers chew on between the cheek and gum, not gum). As for the ads themselves… Who has time to read magazines unless they’re about cycling? They don’t bother me anymore that liquor ads would. I quit both. Err, all four (cigarettes, chew, liquor and drugs). Getting pretty good at quitting, actually. 😉

  7. I didn’t realize you could put those ads in magazines, either. I give a critical eye to the ads for “quick-fix” stuff. It’s weird how the mission doesn’t really align with the content.

    It drives me more than a little crazy when there are more ads than actual content, too.

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