media metamorphoses

Newspapers Finally Admit They’re Not Sexy

A nationwide ad campaign has been launched by the Newspaper Association of America that’s designed to change the perception that newspapers are dying and uncool. Crafted by the Richmond-based Martin Agency, the ad shows a cartoon woman reading a newspaper and daydreaming about how she could be browsing the Internet on her phone, tablet, or laptop. (Okay, presumably it actually shows her thinking about reading her newspaper on those devices, but what newspapers’ digital version looks like that?) Underneath the picture is the splashy slogan: “SMART IS THE NEW SEXY.”

Literally, everyone at the agency, everyone on our committee, and then everyone on the board had a 100-percent positive reaction to that headline,” said Donna Barrett, a NAA board member. “It sets a fun new tone for [the industry]. Who doesn’t want to be perceived as both smart and sexy? And if you can tie the two together? All the better!”

No, no, no, no, no, no, no. A thousand times no. Let’s count the ways these people are so tragically, sadly off base.

1) The “[blank] is the new [blank]” phrase clearly does not mean what these people think it means. “Pink is the new black” means that pink has replaced black as the new trendy, go-to color. “Smart is the new sexy” means that smart has replaced sexy as… the thing that people want to be? I guess? It doesn’t mean “smart IS sexy.” It means that smart and sexy are two very distinct things that actually can’t co-exist because one’s toppling the other. So you’re deciding to be smart instead of sexy. Which is fine! But not what these people are trying to say.
2) In fact, by striking the divide between smart and sexy here, they’re basically saying that newspapers are primarily smart. Which may be true! But why can’t they be… fun? Enjoyable? Surprising? Moving? Or, uh, something you should definitely look at from time to time in order to be a functioning member of society??
3) Anytime a person uses the term sexy to describe something, it ages them another ten years. This is why Tina Brown is 2,000 years old.
4) The minute you try to tell someone that you yourself are “sexy,” it makes you the unsexiest thing on the planet. Just imagine if Jennifer Aniston sat across from you at a bar and said, “I’m sexy.” You’d fill her lap with a ralph blanket.
5) Also, anytime an old person uses the word sexy to appeal to a young person, it sounds desperate and out of touch. Instead of appearing vivacious and fun, these ads — to me at least — reek of death. Is that supposed to be a hipster? With those Anderson Cooper glasses and Lady Elaine Fairchild cheeks? Did she buy those fake marigolds at Urban Outfitters? It’s just all wrong.

Why can’t we just have an ad campaign that says, “If you read the newspaper you wouldn’t sound like a goddamn moron so much of the time”? Okay, don’t answer that; I know why. But does the industry really need to resort to trickery? Gimmicks? The good thing about the similar ad campaign for magazines is that it (slightly petulantly) just explained why you should read magazines. Isn’t that enough? Do we really need to steal the tag line from The Big Bang Theory to save a dying industry?

The Smart and Sexy Story of Newspapers [Editor & Publisher]

Newspapers Finally Admit They’re Not Sexy