Fortune editor at large
December 13 2007: 12:42 PM EST
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Murdoch ad squelched by FT, Chinese daily

The papers so far have refused to publish ads celebrating the media mogul's latest coup, The Wall Street Journal, and other career triumphs.

By Richard Siklos, editor at large

News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch won shareholder approval Thursday to acquire The Wall Street Journal.

NEW YORK (Fortune) -- As Rupert Murdoch claims his hard-won prize The Wall Street Journal, his News Corporation conglomerate is planning an unprecedented newspaper advertising campaign that at least two newspapers that usually have little in common - the Financial Times and the China Daily - have so far declined to run.

In the wake of Thursday's approval of Murdoch's $5 billion takeover of Dow Jones (DJ), the Journal's publisher, the News Corporation (NWS, Fortune 500) is spending more than $2 million to place the ad tomorrow in newspapers in the United States, Britain, Australia, and Asia. The ad will run in the Journal, Murdoch's New York Post, and The New York Times - Murdoch's stated archrival.

A News Corp. official said it was the first time the company has done branded advertising. Spanning three pages and playing off Dow Jones' motto, the headline is "Free People, Free Markets, Free Thinking," and trumpets Murdoch's convention-challenging accomplishments over several decades. Those include the launches of the Sun tabloid and BSkyB satellite broadcasting in England, the creation of Fox television (and The Simpsons) in the United States, the Fox News Channel, and the purchase of MySpace two years ago.

"It's the first time we've given the company a narrative that expresses how we've gone against convention in providing greater choice and diversity in entertainment and information to consumers around the world," said a company insider.

The somewhat cheeky ad can also be seen as a giant rebuttal against critics who have feared the worst from Murdoch's takeover of one of the most influential and respected newspapers in the world. Skeptics have cited past instances of Murdoch's imposing his own views on newspapers he owns, and accused him of taking products he owns down-market.

"Today the greatest brand in financial journalism joins up with the world's most restless global media company," the ad proclaims.

According to News Corp. officials, the FT's ad department asked that the creative be slightly changed to "one of" the greatest brands in financial journalism - for obvious reasons. An FT official has not yet been reached.

China Daily's objections, according to News Corp. insiders, were more comprehensive, including - not surprisingly, the liberal use of the word "free" in the headline. Under advertising laws in Communist China, use of such words as "first" or "best" must be approved by authorities. Apparently Murdoch has rejected to the papers' requests to modify the ads.  To top of page

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