Alumni Association Clarifies Paterno Statuette Ad Controversy
The statuette people are mad. Not the statue people, the statuette people.
A press release has been making the rounds this week about the Alumni Association’s purported refusal to run an advertisement for the $590 nine-pound Joe Paterno statuette being hawked by Distinct Collectibles. It claims, in part, the company signed a contract with the Alumni Association in late-November for its statuette advertisement to appear in two web publications throughout December – the AlumnInsider and the Penn State Football Letter. The Alumni Association later rejected the advertisement after the contract was signed because it didn’t want to been as endorsing the product.
Here was the Alumni Association’s reasoning, per an email cited in the press release: “We are unable to accept the advertising from Distinct Collectibles at this time. With advertising relatively new in the digital assets of the Alumni Association (web and e-newsletters), we need to create a distinction between advertising and editorial so readers understand the alumni association does not endorse advertisers but simply accepts it as paid placement. We will contact you once we have this in place.”
“We are very disappointed in the Alumni Association leadership’s refusal to allow advertising of the replica Joe Paterno statue. The piece has generated strong interest from our alumni,” said Mike Flanagan, co-owner of DC. “A decision to run the ad is not advocacy of one side over another, but refusing to do so is. Penn State alumni can, and should, decide for themselves how they feel, so we believe the association leadership should have allowed the advertisement.”
So, if the Penn State Alumni Association is declining ads with Paterno’s likeness, it would seem like a pretty feeble decision, right? The Alumni Association doesn’t quite see it that way.
Here’s how Director of Strategic Communications Amy Caputo framed it to me: “The information in the release is not accurate in that we did not pull the ad. We were notified of the digital request by our own outside sales rep on Nov. 25, which was past our production deadline of Nov. 21, and at that time did not have a fully executed ad contract. Also, the ad placement request in one of the pubs was for a position that had already been sold to another advertiser.”
While she didn’t deny that one of the reasons for declining the ad was the potential confusion between advertising and editorial, Caputo continued to say that the Alumni Association is working with Distinct Collectibles on other advertising options.
“[We] haven’t said we would not run ad for this product,” she wrote. “Bottom line is that it was a new ad, from a new advertiser, it came in after our deadline, holiday week, and we weren’t in a position to evaluate and accommodate in time for it to run.”
Assuming honesty — and I have no reason to assume otherwise — it seems like a non-controversy to me. On the other hand, the fact that person who sculpted both the original Paterno statue and is now profiting from this statuette has called his previous work “nothing more than 900 pounds of dead metal” raises more questions in my mind.