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Rocks on the Cover, Venus de Milo Inside

Spectator — January 2003
By Tom Fexas


Rocks on the Cover, Venus de Milo Inside

Did you ever wonder why boat magazines with some really, really interesting stuff inside feature a boat on the cover about as interesting as a stone? Hidden inside the magazine might be an article about a boat so beautiful that she'll bring tears to your eyes. She could be built of special lightweight composite material--the origin of which emanated from UFOs. The powerplant could be a brand-new ionization reverse-magnetism water-particle tractor drive heretofore unseen anywhere in the world. Yet, on the cover there is a nondescript boat that looks like a beach ball with windows. Just what is going on here?

The answer, my friends, sometimes is as simple as ABC--advertising, bucks, and coercion. Big boat manufacturers drop big bundles on ads and sometimes expect editorial pages and covers in return. That is the perception anyway. Of course, this is not right and casts a dark shadow across rosey boat reviews that appear in the magazines. While I am sure this practice may occur to some extent in some publications, I always have found the magazines to be eager to jump on a story about a new and different boat from a company that has no bucks for advertising. Produce an innovative, interesting product, and they will come.

I speak from experience. When we introduced the prototype Midnight Lace in 1978, nobody knew who the hell Fexas or Midnight Lace was. The Midnight Lace was conceived and designed by me and funded by a gentleman from Ohio, new to the boat business. In 1978 I was lucky to have a few TV dinners in the icebox, and my benefactor was tapped out as a result of a project that ran overbudget. We had nothing to offer except an interesting boat. And yet (we are big enough to mention the competition here) Yachting ran a ten-page thesis on the design written by yours truly. Boating did a boat test, and Motor Boating & Sailing ran a comprehensive article. These were the "big three" boating magazines; PMY did not yet exist.

No-Win Situation
Advertisers have been known to pull their advertising because they are not happy about the way a magazine wrote about their products. But sometimes magazines just can't win. Years ago a magazine ran a cover shot of a large motoryacht and a feature article inside. Let's face it, a cover story is a home run for the manufacturer and should make everybody happy. Except in this case. The problem was the cover shot had been taken just off the bow with the boat at rest. The damned sheer looked like it was faired by a stumblebum wino with the DTs on Quaaludes who forgot his corrective lenses. It looked like a roller coaster from bow to stern, and the angle at which the picture was taken greatly magnified the effect. The boatbuilder got so upset that he pulled his advertising for a long time. Reality check: The builder was upset because the magazine chose to run a picture of the boat the way he built it. The builder should have been upset because his boat sucked.

This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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