Hearst's ad initiative

It’s no secret that advertising has been hit hard by the coronavirus, but Hearst Magazines is keeping key brand partners sweet in the meantime with the offer of free PSA ads in Harper’s Bazaar, Elle and Marie Claire’s summer issues.

Carol Smith, the publisher of all three magazines, borrowed the idea from Harper’s Bazaar Spain, which early on in the crisis gave advertisers the opportunity to run “Estamos Contigo” ads, meaning “We Are With You,” “as a way to send a message of hope” to their customers. The U.S. version is called ‘Together With the Fashion Group,’ which at Hearst includes the three glossy magazines.

“It’s a statement to brands,” she said. “I’m a salesperson. What do I want to do? I want to call up Bulgari and sell them an ad. Well, I wasn’t calling up Bulgari [to sell them an ad], but what I could do was call them up and say ‘I’m your partner, how can I help and how I can I send a message to our women that you are with us and we are all in this together’.”

Smith thought only a couple of fashion and beauty companies would be interested as they grappled with closing stores around the world and navigating their businesses through the COVID-19 crisis, but in the end 80 brands, including Armani, Coach, Gucci, Chanel, Cartier, Carolina Herrera, Coty and Unilever signed up. As well as assisting brands, the 80-plus ads will no doubt help thicken up the issues at a time when paid for advertising in the entire media industry is struggling.

“The response was overwhelmingly positive. Everyone wanted to send that message,” added Smith. “[The ads are] all different, but it’s all about hope and life. A lot of them ended with ‘we are with you’.”

The Chanel Foundation highlighted empowered women changing the world, while Tod’s SpA celebrated the artisans who make their products and some others talked about the donations they had made during the pandemic. Among the latter was Unilever, which owns Dove, Vaseline and Suave. According to its ad, which featured an image of a front-line worker with the words “courage is beautiful,” it has donated more than $20 million of products and services during the pandemic.

“There has never been a more important time for us to unite all of America to ensure we get out of this crisis healthy and strong,” said Esi Eggleston Bracey, executive vice president and chief operating officer of beauty and personal care at Unilever North America, of its PSA. “This partnership offered a great opportunity for us to further extend our message of hope and resiliency.”

As for the advertising market in general, while Smith believes that the fashion and luxury sectors will recover, she admitted that it’s going to be a “tough 2020.”

“[Brands] have to make up for lost ground. The U.S. is a number-one or number-two market for all of our brands so while we are slowly waking up in the U.S., with New York and L.A. stores still closed here it’s tough,” she said.

Elle and Marie Claire’s summer issues will hit newsstands today and Bazaar on July 7. Last year, Elle and Marie Claire each produced three issues and Bazaar combined only June and July, but Hearst decided to produce one summer edition for each in 2020 due to advertising concerns and difficulty producing content during the pandemic.

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