Wednesday, January 25, 2012

USAT | How we know they're authentic Amish

"I'd reckon they're the oldest
 and most trusted in the country."

-- Melvin, an Amish craftsman, employing Amish-speech to describe the retailer Sears in a USA Today advertisement this morning for the Hybrid-Thermic™ Heat Surge HT-XL household space heater. In his testimonial, Melvin also spoke about "hearin'" things and expressed pride in "the good Ole USA."

Here's the top half of the full-page ad:

Gannett Bloggers have offered USAT's reliance on these "Amish fireplace" ads as evidence the nation's No. 1 print newspaper is still scraping the bottom of the barrel for revenue. It wasn't until today that I finally ran across one. (Consumer Reports, by the way, scoffs at one of the manufacturer's central claims.)

How much is USAT getting for these ads? Well, certainly less than the official $199,000 rate for a full-color ad Monday through Thursday.


  1. I guess if they're good enough to sell on the Home Shopping network, they're good enough for USA Today. Real Amish don't allow themselves to be photographed though.

    As for price, this ad has been in USA Today more than once, and is in USA Weekend often. My guess would be buy one ad, get 4,000 more free.

  2. It appears the Amish don't mind being photographed -- so long as they aren't being asked to pose.

  3. It's been a miserable day, and this got me to laugh out loud. Thank you.

  4. These ads are keeping the whole damn operation afloat. I understand marketing is hosting a special event in the auditorium, "Amish Heaters and USA TODAY - The Strategy."

  5. Interestingly enough, these Chinese (yes, Chinese) heaters were discredited as snake oil, if you will, some years back.

    As Hopkins notes, the Consumer Reports link touches on this; however, these shammy products were exposed quite some time before.

    But Gannett doesn't care either way. It's a full page ad painted like a news story, short-term revenue at the expense of long-term credibility.

    Such lofty notions as "credibility" long governed which ads were accepted and which were not.

    Not any more.

    Yes, I know it reads "Advertisement" at the top, but at my site such sleight-of-hand was strictly verboten even when the advertiser instructed that their ad be made to look like a news story.

    When that policy magically disappeared, the writing was on the wall as far as I was concerned.

    On the upside professionally, the policy's disappearance quickly highlighted another credibility issue: to wit, a few compositor's lack of any actual experience with line measures, fonts used, leading, kerning -- in sum, basic typography! -- because these few, a minority on the otherwise competent staff, were utterly unable to do just what was now permitted: mimic a news story. Recent grads, they.

    Basically, depressing all around.

  6. Those ads have been around for a couple of years, and will continue to be used as filler (at really low rates) as long as there aren't enough (proper rate) advertisers to fill space. They stand out more now because there are so few ads in general. At that useless Marketing presentation Monday, Sandra used this ad as a specific example of what USAT is trying to steer away from. But, again, you need other advertisers to do that...

    Couple of years ago, there used to be one or two of those fireplaces floating around HQ.

  7. It's no solace that this spam of an ad ran on the back cover of Parade magazine too last weekend. It's all part of the landslide to hell, folks.

  8. At least the Amish are marketing a product with a plan. Our marketing genius spent the last 9 months discovering what most of us already knew. Plan? Not anytime soon.

    Lots of time blown on lots of meaningless issues. Enough flittering about and self promotion. Focus on the task at hand and please hasten the snail's pace. Deliver already.

  9. Has anyone read the copy? Snappier than lots of what I read in USA today.

  10. The rate is about 10-15% of the normal rate

  11. These typically tun as remnants in our paper. The copy in these ads cracks us up when they come through. The "reckon" line Jim quoted above, the respectful crowd waiting as they offload off the buggy... It's like The Onion is sending us ads.

  12. We need a senior vice presidency of fringe group advertisers. Could target all sorts of religions and sects for their products. Maybe there's even a vertical or two. Think outside the box. Dave, Susie, whatta ya think?

  13. This "ad" has been running in my local newsletter, I mean newspaper, for years.

  14. Hey, I own one of those heaters. It cuts down on my oil-heat costs. I'm not sure if it's really made by the "Amish"... They look like Quakers to me. But, anyway, it's a good little heater and's cute looking too.

    About the advertisement text... It's an advertorial. We have never been responsible for the text in advertorials. And, we have had MANY advertorials throughout the years.


Jim says: "Proceed with caution; this is a free-for-all comment zone. I try to correct or clarify incorrect information. But I can't catch everything. Please keep your posts focused on Gannett and media-related subjects. Note that I occasionally review comments in advance, to reject inappropriate ones. And I ignore hostile posters, and recommend you do, too."

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.