The Toronto Star recently started wrapping its front section in ads, à la Metro (except the fold only extends halfway across the front page). Today’s was a stark entreaty: “Don’t buy an SUV.” Okay, an environmental message, huh? We can live with our paper being wrapped in dispatches from the Suzuki Foundation. Then we unfolded it: “(Until you’ve seen the [brand and model].)” Beyond that, it’s a pretty standard SUV ad, except one and a half times as wide as the paper itself.
This is offensive on a number of levels. Metro is 100% funded by advertisements, so it’s understandable that they’d want to maximize the impact of those; plus, if you don’t like a day’s wrap, you just don’t pick up the paper. The Toronto Star, on the other hand, is something people pay to read—subscribe to, even. Wrapping the “A” section in an ad makes the Star the newspaper equivalent of one of those DVDs which won’t let you even get to the main menu (let alone watch the movie) until you’ve sat through several unskippable commercials. It is immensely contemptuous of its readers.
The other level of offense is the nature of the ad itself. While it’s not surprising that an SUV ad would be so repellent, the fact that the Star would let itself be used as the vehicle for such a sales pitch shows a complete lack of respect for the writers and editors at the paper, most of whom really seem to want their journalism to make Toronto a better place. Of course, it’s not at all uncommon for the Star (or any other paper) to run SUV ads—but to be DOMINATED by one in this manner is probably unprecedented in this city.
And here’s the punchline: in our post about the Star‘s redesign, we wrote, “It’s also going to be a bit skinnier, with an inch shaved off the width. The new size starts rolling off the presses in August, with all presses converted by October. In their somewhat overly ebullient press release, the new size is touted as ‘easier to open’ (wha?) and ‘greener, more environmentally friendly.'”