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Readers find ad curiouser and curiouser

March 5, 2010 |  9:32 pm

AliceMany readers were surprised to open their Friday paper and see what appeared to be a movie ad obscuring the front page. In actuality, a four-page advertising section for the movie “Alice in Wonderland” was wrapped around the paper, with a front page designed to look like the real Los Angeles Times, nameplate and all.

The page was marked “Advertisement” in the spot where the date would normally appear. But two articles on either side of a large photo of Johnny Depp used fonts similar to The Times’, and they appeared to be about Afghanistan and healthcare -- two news subjects that are often front-page articles.

As of Friday evening, The Times’ newsroom had received nearly 100 e-mails and about 75 calls from readers regarding the ad, the majority of them unhappy about it. The circulation department had received 101 calls.

Some readers tried to read what looked like legitimate news articles and were frustrated to find them blocked by the ad and not continuing later in the paper:

C. Richard Ryan wrote: WOW Today's front page is sickening to me. ESPECIALLY bad is the fact that one CAN'T EVEN READ ALL THE WORDS in the headlines of the REAL NEWS. "Major Afghan WHAT Caught?" I am furious about this.

From William Inhelder: I cannot believe that The Times would deliberately put that Mad Hatter advertisement on the front page on the main section making most of the front page non-readable. If it was intended , it has to be the most bone-headed decision ever foisted upon its readers in my 50 years as a Times subscriber. If it was unintended, then there is no excuse for delivering such a bad copy.

From Bella Villeza of Los Angeles: You must have gotten a fortune advertising "Alice in Wonderland".  The whole front page is spoiled;  the advertisement covering several paragraphs of two important news items:  "To Take Reins on Health Proposal" and "Major Afghan...ure Caught".  I'm very disappointed that you put "money" before "news."

Other readers recognized that the section was an advertisement but were unhappy with its content:

William Anawalt of Pasadena wrote: It makes sense that the goal of an advertisement is to grab attention, but it makes no sense whatsoever that a business would undermine its integrity by usurping its core. Creating a false "front page" to wrap around the important work that the journalists and editors of the Los Times Times dedicate their lives to denigrates the mission and purpose of our city's newspaper. I give up.  After 30 years of receiving the L.A. Times, today I called to cancel my subscription. I give up.  

And from Jim Hergenrather of Los Angeles: The use of a legitimate image of the front page of The Times as the background for a movie ad is an insult to journalism. It derides the value of news and simply suggests you have adopted the position that a newspaper's editorial content is now nothing more than a vehicle for marketing. The insult is compounded by the actual front page behind it carrying a story about reality TV shows crossing ethical boundaries. 

The subject of the ad inspired some “Alice in Wonderland”- themed comments:

From Joan Martin of Woodland Hills: Alice: But I don't want to go among mad people. The Cat: Oh, you can't help that. We're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad. The L.A. Times is mad.

From Kate Nelson of Manhattan Beach: I've gradually gotten used to the brutal cuts at the sadly declining Times, but this front-page movie ad says it all: You've fallen down the rabbit hole. 

And Ryan Krebs of Moorpark wrote: In a world of double-digit unemployment, recession, and dysfunctional state government, the "Mad Hatter" gets on the front page. How appropriate!

The ad did have its fans, however:

Richard Vallens of Irvine wrote: The Alice in Wonderland (false) front page is absolutely, positively the cleverest idea EVER. It totally tricked me, in the most delightful way. Brilliantly executed. Brilliantly! I'll bet there was a lot of discussion at The Times about allowing that -- a full-page, front-page ad. Here's the verdict: It would ONLY be proper and allowable in narrow circumstances and only if executed elegantly. IT WORKED! 

And from Pete Howard of San Luis Obispo: Wow. Groundbreaking, and really faked me out. Cool. Sell one every day, and be prosperous. That's what this reader of 40 years says. Do what you have to do; having fun doing it, like this one, is a bonus.

-- Deirdre Edgar

Twitter: @LATreadersrep

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