Sandra Lee Semi-Homemade Magazine Blurs Advertising and Editorial
Say what you will about Sandra Lee and her kitchen philosophy of "70 percent store-bought, ready made plus 30 percent fresh allows you take 100 percent of the credit." Her food is generally atrocious, but who cares? She's too easy of a punching bag.
But her magazine — that's another story. The first issue of this publication just hit the newsstands, and it completely crosses the line — each recipe is an advertorial, each advertorial is a recipe. It's literally a challenge to know what's what (the amateurish design doesn't help) — Out of 51 recipes in the magazine, 37 call out an advertiser's product by name. There's a section featuring dinnerware from Ikea and Crate and Barrel, URLs and all — are those sponsored, too? It's impossible to tell.
As we've reported, this magazine violates various rules of the American Society of Magazine Editors, which frowns on mixing advertising and editorial content. Hoffman Media head Phyllis Hoffman told the New York Post, "We felt we'd do a disservice to her fan base by not allowing her to call out brands. Every recipe doesn't have a brand associated with it, but if she uses Hellman's mayonnaise in the salad, she says that." Hoffman also shrugged off the conflict with ASME, saying, "We're not members of ASME, and we've found that advertisers like the brand integration." Brand integration indeed: the recipe for "Semi-Homemade Lasagna," for example, calls out brands Ragu, Sargento (three times), and no-boil lasagna noodles from Vigo.
Perhaps this is the terrifying future of food in print — with ad pages down across the board, this egregious product placement may be the only way for food magazines to survive. Then again, maybe not — we can't imagine Martha Stewart pulling this stunt. Still, this sets a dangerous precedent, and surely other food magazines are watching to see how this goes before they themselves give in. There must be other media companies out there desperate enough to cave into this scheme (we're looking at you, Food Network).