In today’s turbulent media landscape it isn’t unheard of to see an editor in chief jumping on a bed in pajamas, selling cookware or answering 73 Questions in order to pump up their brand — but Joanna Coles is taking native advertising to a new level.
In a recent sponsored campaign for Cotton Inc., the Cosmopolitan editor in chief appears on camera talking about how she stays comfortable at work. Shot in her office at Hearst Tower, the video depicts Coles hastily flicking through a rack of clothing before pulling out a blue pair of monogrammed cotton pajamas from a drawer.
“I’ve been accused of being eccentric because I keep my favorite cotton pajamas in the office. They give me a sense of ease and comfort,” she says. “There’s something honest about them. I can think really well when I’m wearing them.”
The next shot shows a pajama-clad Coles walking on a treadmill desk; performing office duties, such as peering into a laptop; doing bicep curls with a small weight and typing with another hand; making phone calls, and using Snapchat — she’s on its board.
Later, she microwaves an entire tea set and tray because she likes the way tea tastes in a china cup. (Who doesn’t?)
“I’m Joanna Coles and my favorite item is my cotton pajamas,” she says, reclining on a couch with a sleep mask covering her eyes.
Both Cosmopolitan and Coles used stills from the ad on their Instagram accounts tagging her cotton pj’s with Cotton Inc.’s company handle.
WWD reached out for comment from Coles, who didn’t address the ethical implications but instead offered: “I wear lots of cotton; it’s a wonderful fabric. Especially when designed by Céline. And when I pull occasional all-nighters in my office I do wear my monogrammed J. Crew pajamas. Just ask my staff. They find it odd, but it’s an old Fleet Street habit from when I ran the night news desk.”
A spokesman from Cotton noted: “Hearst Digital presented us with a range of editorial talent for the campaign, all of whom we understand were excited to participate.”
The campaign, which was developed by Hearst’s digital division, often taps digital editors to work on native advertising. Cotton said the digital-only campaign dubbed “Favorites Remixed” used a handful of editors, including EJ Samson, director of content strategy for Hearst Digital Media’s Men’s Group; deputy editor of Elle.com Ruthie Friedlander, and Esquire.com senior style editor Jonathan Evans.
Typically publishers have turned a blind eye to the potential conflicts of interest surrounding digital editors creating or appearing in content for advertisers as long as it is labeled. This may be linked to the fact that digital is still an emerging platform that has yet to be tethered by strict rules separating advertising and editorial.
Hearst has been a pioneer of sorts in the native advertising space when it comes to its magazines. The company rolled out a host of cover wraps for subscribers and peel-away ad units on its various covers since 2014. The practice has since been copied by its rival publishers.
So should we not be surprised if one day we see The New Yorker’s David Remnick pushing Harris tweed?