The B.C. Liberal Party purchased a front-page ad in Wednesday’s edition of 24 Hours newspaper touting leader Christy Clark’s performance in Monday’s televised debate — an ad designed to look just like the real front page of a newspaper.
Clark told reporters during a campaign stop in Penticton she hadn’t seen the ad but acknowledged the party did pay for it.
"We’re looking for opportunities to speak to people about where it is we stand," she said.
"There’s lots of TV ads, there’s lots of advertising that all the parties are doing, and that’s a part of the way we all communicate with the public, and this is part of it … but one of the things that I hope people find out is that I was there standing up for what I believed in and what I took from the debate is Adrian Dix is still refusing to say where he stands on the issues. He’s still refusing to come clean."
While the front-page ad calls Clark the "comeback kid" thanks to her performance in the debate, a news story inside the paper has the NDP leading in the polls.
NDP Leader Adrian Dix called the ad "interesting."
"There's an article inside that says an actual poll said that I won the debate," he said.
"Now I don't worry about that too much. I think we'll leave people to judge those things. But the Liberals needed to buy the front page of the newspaper to claim victory. I depend on the work that's done by, you know, actual journalists to answer that question."
‘Crossing the line’
Ross Howard, who teaches journalism ethics at Langara College, says the ad was intentionally designed to look like a news story.
"I think 24 Hours has gone too close to crossing the line and I’m surprised that they did it," he said.
"It does say it’s a paid advertisement but I’m sorry — it’s in the wrong place. It’s right in the middle of the 24 Hours logo, which is ironic. But it should have said it clearly on the rest of the copy. It looks like it’s a newspaper story, it looks like it’s unbiased, it looks like something you can trust. But it’s not. It’s political advertising."
Howard says it’s likely a great strategy for the Liberals, but a poor decision for the newspaper.
"I’m a little surprised that 24 Hours decided to go along with it because it’s their reputation, ultimately."
Howard says selling the front page to a car company is one thing, but running a political ad in the middle of an election campaign is a different story.
"I desperately hope there was conversation between the newsroom and the advertising people in which the newsroom said, ‘You can’t just sell the whole front page to look like it’s news,’ And I hope that’s why at least the word ‘paid advertisement’ is somewhere on the front page here," he said.
"But it’s not good enough."
Commuters at two downtown Vancouver SkyTrain stations had similar reactions.
"I think that’s very poor," one man told CBC News.
Another said she wasn’t surprised to see the Liberal Party purchase front-page ad space.
"Hopefully people flip through the pages and actually read into the reality of it rather than just looking at the picture," she said.
"However, I’m sure that’s why they’re going for that — because a lot of people do do that."
24 Hours newspaper declined to comment.