STILL HANGING IN THERE: Readership is down, the economy stinks and key advertising sectors are imploding. But there’s good news, sort of: U.S. advertising spending across media such as newspapers, magazines and TV was essentially flat for the first quarter of this year, up 0.5 percent over the same period last year to approximately $30 billion, according to figures released Monday by Nielsen Monitor-Plus.

Among all the categories, ad spending for national Sunday supplements experienced the biggest gains during the period. The grouping — which includes American Profile; Los Angeles Times Magazine; New York Times Magazine and various spin-offs like T, Parade, Relish and USA Weekend — was up 19.2 percent to about $289 million. (Of course, whether the Los Angeles Times Magazine’s recent suggestion of moving control of its magazine from the editor to the publisher — see below — will boost advertising remains to be seen.) Meanwhile, national magazines were down 1.3 percent to $4.14 billion from $4.2 billion and national newspaper ad spending decreased 6.2 percent to $396.4 million.

This story first appeared in the June 17, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

And while print was relatively flat, the Internet was way up: Internet advertising impressions rose 14.7 percent in the first quarter, driven by sponsored search, Nielsen said.

Spending in the 10 largest ad categories totaled more than $10 billion during the first quarter, down slightly over a year ago, with the biggest gain coming from the “direct-response product” category, up more than 16 percent to $670 million. Other notables include financial-investment services and credit card services, both rising more than 8 percent. Predictably, the biggest drop was in automotive, down 8.3 percent to $2.7 billion. Of the other four top categories — pharmaceuticals, auto dealers, restaurant-quick service and telephone services-wireless — most saw relatively flat revenues except for restaurants, which rose 4.4 percent to $1.03 billion. Department store advertising, which came in seventh, declined 0.44 percent to $717.4 million from $720.6 million. The top five advertisers by spending were Procter & Gamble, General Motors, AT&T, Verizon and PepsiCo. — Amy Wicks

FROM WEST TO EAST: The Los Angeles Times has had a tough few years, but now would seem to be a particularly wise time to jump ship, what with the stated goal of cutting editorial staff and the reputed turf war at its weekly magazine under new Tribune Co. owner Sam Zell. The Times’ Mary Kaye Schilling, who launched the entertainment-oriented Guide at the Times after 14 years at Entertainment Weekly, is leaving for New York magazine, where she’ll be culture editor. New York’s current culture editor, Jared Hohlt, is being named features editor.

Separately, Tribune has continued issuing press releases that attempt boisterous humor but might simply achieve cringes: in announcing the hire of Kim Johnson as senior vice president of local sales, amid cracks about Al Gore inventing the Internet, she was described as “a former waitress at ‘Knockers — The Place for Hot Racks and Cold Brews.'” It’s unclear who exactly is laughing. — Irin Carmon

INDEPENDENT WOMEN: The Condé Nast Bridal Group has seen significant changes in the six months since Bill Wackermann was given oversight of the division. In March, he assigned the magazines, which previously had one publisher, separate publishers — Alison Adler Matz is now at Brides and Jennifer Hicks at Modern Bride, Elegant Bride and Your Prom. Now, each title is positioning itself with distinct identities to advertisers.

Next week, Modern Bride will roll out a trade campaign featuring celebrity brides Daisy Fuentes, Laila Ali, Giuliana Rancic, actress Jeri Ryan, and “Hairspray” star Marissa Jaret Winokur. The ads include photos from the stars’ wedding day with a message expressing each one’s individuality as a young married woman (“I’m a Modern Bride because I chased my career instead of guys,” declared Rancic). The campaign follows a redesign of Elegant Bride, which will have an increased focus on reception planning along with bridal content and a crisp aesthetic similar to Martha Stewart Weddings. At Brides, the sales force is going to market with a new positioning, “Brides First,” that emphasizes the magazine’s iconic status as the largest resource in the category. “We were able to separate the magazines so they have clear voices,” said Wackermann, who paralleled the three books in terms of their fashion magazine equivalent: Brides is the category’s Vogue, Modern Bride is akin to Glamour and Elegant Bride is similar to W.

The goal is to raise the bridal group’s profile among the beauty and fashion advertisers and expand its non-endemic ad base. Wackermann believes women are trying and buying beauty and fashion products in droves to ensure they look their best for their big day. Take fragrance, for example, which Wackermann said advertised very little with the bridal books. “If there’s a night when you’re going to slather yourself in fragrance, it’s your wedding night.”

But Irene Gazis, OMD client communications director for Coty Inc., said some advertisers might believe otherwise. “Here’s the positive: a woman reads those books from cover to cover, including the ads. But some argue when she’s reading those books she’s thinking about her dress, the flowers and the china. She’s not thinking about buying a fragrance for herself.” Nevertheless, Gazis said Coty is considering advertising more of its fragrance lines with the bridal group.

Another challenge for bridal magazines: brides to be, usually planning their wedding in a year’s time, are difficult consumers to connect with long term. “They may see this woman coming and going out of this category. You’re not building a relationship with her,” said Gazis.

Through the June/July issue, Modern Bride, year-to-date ad pages totaled 1,087, down 4 percent from the year prior. Brides ran 1,821 pages through the July/August issue, flat compared with last year. New advertisers to the fold include Discover card, Dior Beauty, Clinique and Linens-N-Things. — Stephanie D. Smith

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