By Kyleen McNicholas

At the start of October, the TV show Law & Order took out a four-page advertisement in the LA Times to promote its new show Law & Order: Los Angeles.  Displayed as the lead story and cover page of the newspaper, the advertisement definitely received attention and made people talk.  However, did the attention end up being more beneficial or problematic for NBC Universal, Law & Order: Los Angeles, and the Los Angeles Times?

The ad appeared as the front-page story 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.  Displayed in several newspapers across the country (including New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Philadelphia Inquirer, Baltimore Sun and Orlando Sentinel); each of the separate newspapers chose to display the promotional insert in different ways.  For example, the New York Times chose to display the ad as being in the non-existent “Los Angeles Post”.  Whereas the Los Angeles Times made the advertisement look as if it were a part of the actual news.


All the newspapers that NBC Universal displayed the ad in had the required ‘ADVERTISMENT’ notification at the top of the page.  However, in a selected few (namely the Los Angeles Times), it was placed in a spot that was not clearly seen by readers.  Because of the poor placement of the ‘ADVERTISMENT’ notification, it ended up causing many people to panic throughout the city the day it went to press.

Readers were, to say the least, highly displeased with the advertisement and it ultimately ended up generating a good amount of negativity and bad commentary about NBC Universal, Law & Order: Los Angeles, and the Los Angeles Times.  After the premier ofLaw & Order: Los Angeles, the show received both praising and scornful reviews.  Ironically, the majority of the reviews praising the show came from the same newspapers that were paid (an unknown – but comparatively hefty amount) to run the fake-headline advertisement just a few weeks prior.

Reviews that came from other online viewers ranged from mainly mixed to negative. Could the negative responses to the show have been partially rooted in the psych-out headline advertisement in the Los Angeles Post just a few weeks earlier? Although we cannot know for sure, the negative reactions instilled by the advertisement in early October could have potentially led viewers towards negative bias against the show.


Written by Ad Buzz

The American Advertising Federation Illinois Chapter brings to you Ad Buzz, a blog dedicated to all things advertising related, from our favorite campaigns to trends going on in the industry.

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