SO IT REALLY IS THE ARTICLES: John Mayer’s controversial and off-the-cuff interview in Playboy has led some fans to turn their back on the musician, but he has gained at least one new follower as of late: Playboy president Alex Vaickus. During an earnings conference call on Thursday with analysts, the Playboy head thanked the beleaguered musician for the comments he made in the magazine’s March issue, as it’s now been picked up by at least 1,500 media outlets, leading to 500 million media impressions.
The company had a bit more good news to share, with segment income in the print-digital division of $2.5 million in the fourth quarter, compared with $400,000 a year earlier, due to strong sales of the November issue with Marge Simpson on the cover and the decision to combine the January/February 2010 issues. The company noted that because it will publish one fewer issue during the first quarter of 2010, it expects to report a 47 percent decline in ad revenue. Chief executive officer Scott Flanders said the goal for the magazine is to break even by 2011.
Vaickus also said an alliance with American Media Inc. has the ad sales team there packaging Playboy with AMI’s fitness and sports titles and effective with the April issue, AMI will begin handling newsstand distribution for Playboy as well. This should result in further cost savings for the magazine.
Overall, the company reported a net loss of $27.8 million, compared with a loss of $146.8 million the prior year — impairment and restructuring charges were much higher in the fourth quarter of 2008.
— Amy Wicks
GRAB AN EMPTY CHAIR: The game of musical chairs continues between People StyleWatch and Lucky magazine. A recap: Last week, StyleWatch publisher Michelle Myers jumped ship to Lucky, to succeed the title’s outgoing vice president and publisher Gina Sanders (who became chief executive of WWD’s parent Fairchild Fashion Group). Then three StyleWatch staffers decamped to Lucky to join Myers, including Julie Arkin, StyleWatch’s advertising director, who was named associate publisher of Lucky. Now People StyleWatch has appointed Stephanie Sladkus, formerly of Lucky, to the post of associate publisher of StyleWatch, where she will report to new publisher Karin Tracy. Sladkus had been demoted from associate publisher to advertising director at Lucky to make way for Arkin.
Is your scorecard up-to-date? Hope so, because Thursday also brought news from InStyle, where Tracy had been associate publisher before leaving for StyleWatch’s top job. InStyle has tapped Timothy O’Connor, most recently associate publisher of advertising at Vogue, to be its new associate publisher, advertising. Let the musical chairs cease.
— Nick Axelrod
GLOBAL WARMING: Forget celebrities. After an unauthorized image of President Obama in a recent ad campaign generated a flurry of publicity, Weatherproof is touting a new marketing vehicle: politicians. The outerwear brand, unfazed by the criticism it received for co-opting the president’s image for commercial use, is sending free coats to some 200 world leaders in hopes of winning some additional publicity.
“We want to keep the political fever going,” said Freddie Stollmack, president of Weatherproof, in Las Vegas Wednesday, where his brand blanketed the Mandalay Bay Convention Center with ads showing an image of Mount Rushmore and the tag line, “Fit for a President.”
French President Nicolas Sarkozy is already a fan — or so it appears, since he wrote Stollmack to thank him for the jacket.
The initiative will target U.S. politicians, too, including governors, senators and political hopefuls. “We want to have powerful beings wearing our coats, be it Sen. Scott Brown, Gov. [Arnold] Schwarzenegger or Secretary [of State Hillary] Clinton, who could use some improvement when it comes to fashion,” he added.
Stollmack has just cause to get into politics. The brand’s Obama ad generated 1,100 articles worth an equivalent of $16 million in advertising, according to the company’s clipping service. The media blitz has translated into sales, according to the company, which said the jacket Obama wore in the controversial ad has sold out at Macy’s.
— Brenner Thomas
ANOTHER MODELING CONTEST: Essence is about to enter the crowded world of modeling competitions. To address the continued lack of diversity on fashion runways and also find the next African-American top model, the magazine is partnering with Elite for a model search. The winner will receive a one-year contract with Elite, walk the runway at New York Fashion Week in September and be featured in the magazine’s 40th anniversary issue during that same month.
Essence.com managing editor Emil Wilbekin is working with Bethann Hardison on the contest and Veronica Webb will serve as one of the judges. “We need some new black faces on the runway,” said Wilbekin, adding he has noticed a bit more diversity on the catwalk this season. “But we need to find the next Naomi Campbell or Iman.” Essence readers will be able to follow the contest online and vote for their favorite model; the competition will also play out in a Web series. Live castings will be held in New York, Los Angeles and Atlanta, and photos will be accepted on essence.com.
DVF’S REJECTION: In the March issue of Interview, Diane von Furstenberg recalls being rejected by Alexander Wang when, as a new fashion graduate, DVF asked Wang to design some sweaters for her. “For the purpose of the story, I want the readers to know that you [Wang] told me, ‘No, I’m not interested in doing anything for you.’ I said, ‘OK…’ And that was the first time I remember encountering the name Alex Wang — a rejection.’” She interviewed Wang, to whom she eventually became a mentor, for the issue. He hinted about a “really big project” in the works on the West Coast. “The company that I’m collaborating with has never done something of this magnitude before. So it’s pretty significant.”
Meanwhile, Lara Stone talked to Marc Jacobs about her trip to rehab last year, modeling, her recent engagement (and wedding dress, designed by Riccardo Tisci) and working with photographers. “Personally, I don’t like working with female photographers because they seem to never be able to make up their minds about what they want to do — with the exception of Inez [van Lamsweerde] because she always knows what she’s doing,” Stone said. “But so many times it’s like, ‘Oh, let’s try this’ and ‘Let’s try that’ and ‘Let’s do this’ and ‘Let’s do that.’ It’s like, ‘For f–k’s sake, woman!’” The magazine hits newsstands on Tuesday.
THE KELLYS TAKE A BREAK: The Kelly Gang’s annual benefit is on hiatus this year. In an e-mail, the organizers behind the event said the economy is to blame and has taken a toll on some sponsors. “….We feel it’s the right time to take a pause, with the goal of coming back strong in 2011.”