NBC’s “Law & Order: Los Angeles” makes its debut Wednesday night. To promote it, NBC took out special four-page mock-editorial sections in the Los Angeles Times and New York Times.
The two papers handled them somewhat differently, though.
Though both were clearly marked as advertisements at the top, as is becoming somewhat common, the L.A. Times ran it as a wraparound [above, right] covering the main editorial section, with the newspaper's logo at the top.
The New York Times ran it as a stand-alone insert, labeled as the non-existent “Los Angeles Post.”
The lead story in appears under the headline “MEDIA ICON HIT BY CRIME WAVE” (subhead: “City demands more law and order”) with a photo of NBC’s Burbank headquarters sealed off behind police tape.
A spokesperson for NBC Universal said that the mock ads also ran in the Chicago Tribune, Philadelphia Inquirer, Baltimore Sun and Orlando Sentinel, but declined to reveal the cost of the campaign.
A spokesperson for the L.A. Times said it would not discuss what the ad cost, either. A spokesperson for the New York Times did not immediately return an e-mail seeking comment.
In March, the L.A. Times Times sold its front page to Disney for $700,000 to promote Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland,” with Johnny Depp’s Mad Hatter covering the front page stories.
In July, the paper caught heat for running a similar ad section: a fake four-page wraparound for Universal Studios’ King Kong ride which “reported” that Universal Studios and other iconic L.A. landmarks had been destroyed.
“The cost of this distasteful practice to the people of Los Angeles County is far greater than any short-term gains by the Tribune Company,” a letter from the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors responding to the King Kong ad read. "Today's mock section makes a mockery of the paper's mission."
L.A. Times publisher Eddy Hartenstein fired back on the paper’s blog:
“The Universal Studios Hollywood ad wrapping Thursday’s LATExtra section met our advertising guidelines, including a large, red ‘advertisement’ notification on top of the page. Our readers understand the ad-supported economic model of our business, which allows us to provide the outstanding journalism they rely upon 24/7.”