The first in a series of articles published in Mangrove magazine in 2004. These are not deep in academic research, but a fun read.
What USA publicists call a junior page advertisement is known in Puerto Rico, more informally, as a “robapágina”, or page mugger. Reference to the “illegality” of a fake full-page has less to do with the crime problems currently affecting the island than with the aggressiveness that permeates most advertising endeavors all over the world.
A case in point: Newspaper A1 design vis-a-vis front page advertising.
Publication designers love control over their work. Even though, customarily, one must follow lay out standards – to a certain extent – the designer more than often controls colors, typographic treatments, and image choice. To his/her dislike, there is one aspect of everyday work that, on most occasions, is labeled as hands-off: the advertising.
Lack of advertising control, if it’s any consolation, extends beyond the publication realm. Recently, a restaurant within my neighborhood sold some of its parking space to a billboard company. The new advertisement was placed above the restaurant’s sign; it’s twice its size, boasts excessive illumination, and challenges the sky boldly. Did the restaurant’s owner ever consider the billboard’s dwarfing effect? Did he realize clients would be confused by the looted landscape? Did he care? Does anyone care?
This situation is echoed in publications as well. Over the fold advertisements on A1 are, more and more, challenging the hierarchical space where once the masthead reigned supreme. With no control over the design and content of these printed billboards, the nameplate’s landscape is now being diminished by flashy, un-related colors, mirror typography, effect-ridden images, and non-editorial messages.
Publishers will argue these advertisements provide necessary revenue and, as such, it is no longer an option to do without them. But if, in fact, we have to do with them, why not exert more control over them? Both in Europe and the USA, key publications have paved the way for the integration of word, image, and page structure, regardless of editorial or commercial purpose.
Madison Avenue’s Mad Magazine and Barcelona’s design journal ARDI are to be thanked for saying NO! to uninspired publicists. Anyone wanting to advertise in their pages has to consciously address the aesthetics, style, and visual standards of the publications. Where did their efforts lead to? Undiminished sponsors and award-winning ads. If more than one continent has already acknowledged the values of fully integrated graphic languages, why can’t more of us defend the full command of the graphic landscape to which we are entitled?