Ad agency threatens Mac media

Chiat/Day's message to Mac publications: If you publish Apple rumours, you'll lose Apple's business. Has the company gone too far?
Written by Matthew Rothenberg, Contributor

Apple's advertising agency is offering Mac publications a choice: Get out of the rumours business or lose Apple's business.

The agency, TBWA/Chiat/Day, recently contacted several publications that carry Apple's advertising, and informed them of the company's concern about publications that create or circulate rumours about the Mac maker and its products, according to people familiar with the matter.

The sources said Chiat/Day has requested a statement from each magazine's publisher or editorial department asserting that they do not participate in publishing rumours or speculation about Apple or Mac.

A Chiat/Day representative in Los Angeles refused to comment on the report, citing a policy of not discussing its client's business with the press.

Apple did not return phone calls requesting comment on whether it had directed its ad agency to approach the publications with the request or whether Chiat/Day was acting independently.

In recent months, Cupertino, California-based Apple has stepped up its legal efforts to block Mac-related rumour sites. The company in August filed suit in California's Santa Clara County Superior Court, and named an employee posting under the pseudonym "Worker Bee" as one of up to 25 John Does the company said caused the company damage by leaking pre-release details of Apple's latest mouse, multiprocessor Power Mac desktops and the revised iBooks that Apple CEO Steve Jobs unveiled at this week's Apple Expo in Paris.

In addition, Apple has threatened legal reprisal against small Web sites, such as MacNN.com, that have carried images and specs describing unreleased Mac products, such as the October 1999 crop of iMac consumer desktop systems.

According to Aly Colón, a specialist on the ethics faculty of the Poynter Institute for Media Studies in St. Petersburg, Fla., the alleged request from Chiat/Day oversteps the editorial boundaries expected from an independent news organisation. "A lot of it depends on how these magazines view themselves," Colón said. "If they view themselves as an extension of Apple's advertising program and believe that it's important to do what Apple tells them to do, then it makes sense not to bite the Apple that feeds you.

"If, on the other hand, they view themselves as independent journals or publications regarding news that deals with Apple, it would compromise and damage their credibility when it came to simply adhering to the ad agency's directives.

"I do believe that it's important that any publication involved in news to be responsible about the information that it transmits and contains and that it takes the time to ascertain the veracity of that information before it uses it," Colón said. "The decision to use that information, however, should remain with the editors and publishers of those publications if they see themselves as independent purveyors of news."

What do you think? Tell the Mailroom. And read what others have said.

Editorial standards