NYT Loves The Cocaine?

    March 23, 2007
    WebProNews Staff

And we have yet another example of the distance contextual advertising has to go. When a New York Times advertisement pops up above a guide to the Big Apple’s cocaine scene, there is clearly more work to be done – unless the NYT would actually endorse such a thing.

The ad is covered in a thick layer of irony, informing its target market that the Times is the "ultimate guide to global travel," advising on:

Where to Stay; Where to Eat; What to Do; When to Go

It appeared above an article posted on the travel section of GridSkipper.com, a Gawker Media site. The article was titled "New York Coke Bars."

If you’re the temperance-minded, you may already be wondering what’s wrong with Coca-Cola, or the soda-jerk joints that serve it. That association would be quickly displaced upon seeing the graphic accompanying the article featuring a mirror with a powder line and a rolled-up dollar bill. 

It becomes clear this is a guide to "some of the city’s favorite indoor skiing," sponsored by the New York Times. And if you, the cokehead reader, know any blow-friendly bars that Amanda Kludt, the writer of the piece, forgot to mention, be sure to let GridSkipper know.

Just make sure it hasn’t been mentioned in the comments section. Commentator "Wasp vs. Stryper" was appalled at the list’s incompleteness, reminding Kludt of The Annex, The Dark Room, 200 Orchard, 205, The Box, and Thor, all of which can be expected to be raided next week.

Regardless of the ironic hilarity of it, it seems doubtful that the NYT would openly endorse public cocaine use – unless there’s an editorial I’ve missed. The Village Voice, maybe, High Times, but the NY Times, established paper of record for the greatest city on Earth and most widely-respected news organization anywhere?

Though contextual advertising is most definitely the future in this industry, and a huge organization like the Times can absorb accidental associations, smaller, more sensitive advertisers would probably be quite upset having their priceless brand names associated with the urban nightclub drug subculture.

So, needless to say, but it’s going to be said anyway, artificial intelligence has a ways to go yet before it can recognize certain moral and cultural nuances with enough skill to choose which ads are appropriate. Google says they’ve gotten quite good at this.

Doubleclick, the digital advertiser the NYT went through for this placement, apparently has some problem solving to address – even if artificial intelligence is really, really hard.