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Mercedes Rescinds Ad Rule After Negative Publicity

September 20, 1993

NEW YORK (AP) _ Mercedes-Benz of North America has rescinded a policy barring magazines from running Mercedes advertisements near editorial material that could reflect negatively on the ad.

The move was in response to criticism that the ad policy, which required signed agreements from publishers, could lead to censorship, a Mercedes spokesman said Sunday.

Mercedes had denied that the policy could stifle editorial content and said it was simply formalizing a widespread industry practice. It said it rescinded the policy on Friday and returned all signed agreements to magazines.

About half of roughly 30 publications that were asked to sign had sent signed agreements back to Mercedes, said A.B. Shuman, a Mercedes spokesman.

″In attempting to formalize what is generally accepted by the industry as normal practice, we have ended up being characterized as a company that is trying to leverage its advertising in order to stifle editorial content,″ Albert K. Weiss, Mercedes’ general manager of marketing services, said in a letter sent to publishers on Friday.

″Since that objective may now be clouded as a result of misinterpretation, this letter rescinds the original so that it is absolutely clear that it is Mercedes-Benz policy never to interfere with editorial policy in any way,″ Weiss wrote.

In a letter sent through its advertising agency last month, the company wrote, ″Any issue containing editorial denigrating to Mercedes-Benz... or containing material that may lead to a negative bias toward German products should not carry a Mercedes-Benz advertisement.″

The company asked that layout and make-up crews be given authority to pull a Mercedes ad at the last minute if they feel it appears near ″inappropriate editorial.″

If an ad isn’t postponed, the company’s letter said it may not pay for the space or may later seek free space of comparable size. The letter didn’t define precisely what topics are inappropriate.

Shuman said that Mercedes-Benz would now deal with publications on a less formal, case-by-case basis, ″the way every other advertiser works.″

″If the advertising staff becomes aware of something that might be of interest, it lets us know and then on a case-by-case basis we decide if we want to be in that issue,″ Shuman said.

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