Oops: WSJ.com Ad Calls McCain Win Before Debate

    September 26, 2008
    WebProNews Staff

This morning, before Senator John McCain even agreed to attend tonight’s debate, a Web ad paid for by the McCain campaign appeared alongside a Wall Street Journal article boldly declaring him the winner. The foreign policy debate with Barack Obama isn’t scheduled until 9 p.m. tonight.

WSJ.com Ad Calls McCain Win Before Debate

Credit for the screenshot goes to a reader of Chris Cillizza’s now aptly titled “The Fix” blog at WashingtonPost.com. The ad read, “McCain Wins Debate!” unfortunately recalling the Chicago Tribune’s 1948 error declaring Republican Thomas E. Dewey victorious over Harry Truman.

WSJ.com Ad Calls McCain Win Before Debate

Another ad, according to the same report but lacking a screenshot, quoted campaign manager Rick Davis relaying that “McCain won the debate—hands down.” The Journal would not confirm this second ad appeared.

Actually, most of WebProNews’s inquiries into how this occurred were not answered, but WSJ.com vice president of advertising, Joseph Gallagher, said “this was purely human error,” as opposed to an automated contextual advertising one. “It was obviously supposed to launch in the pm,” he said, “and it was mistakenly launched in the am.”

Gallagher said the mistake was caught “immediately” and was taken down.

Ashley Huston, a spokesperson for Dow Jones, the Journal’s parent company recently purchased by News Corporation, chalked up the premature running of the ad to a clerical error. “The advertising was removed as soon as discovered, and we regret our mistake,” she said.

No one from Dow Jones or the WSJ answered other questions regarding who approved the ad, the editorial process involved in accepting ads, potential ethical considerations, the possibility of the ad being confused with a headline, whether the ad would have run even if McCain hadn’t decided to attend the debate, or whether the Journal would have run it in the event the editorial staff or polls decided he’d actually lost—not answering all likely a smart move on their part.

The WSJ.com advertising page says ads require a 5-day lead-time, so it could be the ad was placed, at the latest, before Monday—and likely before the campaign knew McCain would temporarily “suspend” his campaign.

The young man answering the phone for the McCain campaign assured us anyone with the authority to make a statement was on a plane for Mississippi—every single one of them—but promised to forward our inquiries to the appropriate officials in the off-chance they become available.

The McCain campaign has yet to reply otherwise for request for comment. The Obama/Biden camp had not responded by press time.