Others, however, have successfully grabbed the attention of Times readers. Denis Hayes launched the inaugural Earth Day with a full-page ad in the Times in February 1970. Hundreds of thousands of supporters demonstrated for a cleaner environment, contributions began to accelerate and the rest of the media took notice.
On April 15, 1980, when animal rights may have seemed like an oxymoron to most Americans, activist Henry Spira purchased the ad "How Many Rabbits Does Revlon Blind for Beauty's Sake?" to call attention to the fact that cosmetics companies routinely blind and poison animals to test ingredients.
"The ad worked," said Karen Davis, the president of United Poultry Concerns. "Proctor and Gamble contacted Henry, they began negotiating and they said they would set aside money for alternative ways to test their products."
Davis co-sponsored a full-page ad in the Times June 21, 2004, calling for the American Veterinary Association to stop endorsing the forced molting of hens for egg production. At the group's next conference, members passed a resolution condemning the practice.
Sometimes, the ads are just plain perverse. On April 1, 1996, Taco Bell bought a full-page ad, "Taco Bell Buys the Liberty Bell," stating that the fast-food chain had purchased the historic landmark to help the national debt. Thousands of confused readers called the National Historic Park in Philadelphia, not realizing that it was an April Fool's joke on the part of the company.
On September 1990, Leona Helmsley, the late hotelier, took out a full-page ad to scold Saddam Hussein for holding hostages. "I know something about how to treat guests," Helmsley lectured the strongman.
Others use space in the Times as a personal sandwich board to justify their actions or condemn their critics.
Earlier this year, New York City restaurateur Jeffrey Chodorow spent what's been estimated at between $30,000 and $80,000 on a full-page ad that condemned Times food critic Frank Bruni's no-star review of Chodorow's Kobe Club restaurant. And Oscar-winning movie director Elia Kazan bought a full-page ad to justify his actions during the McCarthy era, when he cooperated with the House Un-American Activities Committee.
"Sometimes people placing the ad are only interested in reaching 200 people, but they know they will if they put it in the Times," said one advertiser, who added that the full-page ad has a greater effect. "It's a deliberate viral effect. People who read it have to be interested in it to care about it."