The New York Times "The Truth is Hard" (2017) :30 (USA)

The truth is our nation is more divided than ever. The truth is alternative facts are lies. The truth is a woman should dress like a woman. The truth is women's rights are human rights. The truth is we have to protect our borders. The truth is his refugee policy is a backdoor Muslim ban. The truth us we need a full investigation fo Russian ties. The truth is leaking classified information is the real scandal. The truth is climate change is a hoax. The truth is the Supreme Court seat was stolen. etc etc etc. The truth is the media is dishonest. The truth is hard to find. The truth is hard to know. The truth is more important now than ever.

This is the first ad the New York Times (or as Donald Trump calls it, the Failing New York Times) has ever run. And it will run during the Oscars. Half of it is made up of thinly-veiled references to what the Trump campaign has said. According to The Hill, Trump has targeted the New York Times more than any media. So basically, the New York Times has made a response ad to one person: President Trump. Which is weird, because I'm pretty sure he won't be watching the Oscars. If they wanted to reach him, they run it on Fox News.

Considering #OscarBoycott is a pretty busy hashtag on Twitter, and considering MMA fighters are mad at Meryl Streep for slamming their art form which takes years of training to perfect it also kind of shows the New York Times isn't interested in widening its base beyond what you might call the Costal Liberal demographic. Which is all well and good since it's worked or them for 165 years. They've even recently gained digital subscriptions, too. Probably sympathy subscriptions thanks to Trump criticizing them. At least they know their base. But as the New York Times plans another round of layoffs and budget cuts, they might want to be thinking about increasing market share and answering the hard question of how to do that.

But this ad doesn't do that at all. Not because it seems like it's only talking to the New York Times subscribers. But because it avoids taking a stand for anything. Beyond a lot of contradictory titles, the spot ends with the Times proudly wearing The Cloak Of Truth. The truth is hard to find and hard to know but it's really important, man. Yeah? And? They don't come out and position the Times as being the place for said truths. A little hard to do when you've been known to hire the occasional plagiarist. The ad doesn't take a stand on anything. They even shortchange themselves. Even if you aren't a die-hard Hillary-supporting Chardonnay-swilling Live-In-New-York-Forever kind of intellectual, their style section and review of books and, well, basically everything other than politics, is more or less straight down the middle and objective. In other words, they have a lot to offer.

Instead, they focus on politics and declare the truth is hard to find, and hint at the fact they are able to find the truth. So how exactly are they different from The Wall Street Journal, or The L.A. Times, or The Guardian? Well, I know how they're different from the Guardian. The Guardian aired a similar concept called The Three Little Pigs back in 2012 that explored the nature of how culture and popular opinion gets swayed by opinion and only guiding light of truth can help us make sense of it all. And they did with a much bigger budget than the Times, and with a much simpler analogy to the Three Little Pigs which made it inclusive to everyone, and it was clever and took you on an emotional journey. And oh yeah, it was aimed as a response to one particular person.

But this ad? The truth is this ad is as first-thought as you can get right down to the black and white color scheme. The truth is, this ad is full of sound and fury but signifies nothing. The truth is, this ad looks like a student at a third rate portfolio center made it on the cheap, but still had to borrow money from their dad to get Premiere.

Client: The New York Times

AnonymousCoward's picture
Dabitch's picture

Oy, you really broke this ad down. I wish we could have ads for newspapers like "Don't read" again, but to be honest all newspapers are very partisan reporters, and non-reporters, of the actual news. It's quite daring for the home of Jayson Blair to go down the "truth" route. It's not just first thought, it's historically ignorant. I have had tremendous respect for the grey lady, as I used to read it when I lived in New York back when the ad posters for the New York Post said "I only watch PBS"...

The Guardian points of view is my favourite newspaper ad of all time. Were newspapers or advertising better back then?

Alec Long's picture

I might have to disagree with your analysis on this one. Watching it, I felt its job was to push back at the entire notion of "fake news" accusations. Being the nation's most venerable newspaper means it has an macro obligation to stand up for traditional mainstream journalism. And as a constant target for Trump's tiny fingerpointing attacks as a "failing" newspaper that mean to diminish its legitimacy, it has a micro obligation to defend itself. So pointing out how important truth is in today's political climate felt real and relevant to me.

kidsleepy's picture

I grant you it's important to point out how important the truth is, but again, if you watch it in the context of their media spend (the Oscars) they are preaching to the converted who already hate Trump. In other words, preaching to their audience. And it still feels like they are responding to one person rather than a potential audience of people who could be paying to read them as opposed to any of the other news outlets. So relevancy or not, it's missing an opportunity to grow market share.

Dabitch's picture

I know some ad forums that would insist that this would be "branding" and branding is somehow always a good thing even if it does nothing for the bottom line. Because it certainly is branding NYT, it's all text no images, like the grey lady front page used to be.

Dabitch's picture

There's a press ad that goes with this as well, a nice looking simple text ad using the same copy as the TV. Pretty straightforward. I realize now that my beef with the campaign is actually the word "truth". Newspapers should print facts.

A NYT Journalist shared it on Twitter, here she photographed it and shared it on Rukmini Callimachi's own twitter page. Bizarrely the same tweet shows up on this "Impeach Trump" account. Might be a bot scraping stuff like this.