IO DONNA AND D SHAKE UP ESTABLISHED ITALIAN WEEKLIES
Byline: Sara Gay Forden / Samantha Conti
MILAN — The two upstarts are winning the race hands down.
Fashion weeklies Io Donna and D shook up the women’s magazine market here when they appeared in spring 1996 — and they haven’t stopped stirring things up since.
Launched by dailies Corriere Della Sera and La Repubblica, respectively, Io Donna and D brought the number of high-end women’s weekly magazines in Italy to a staggering six — more than in any other major market. They also raised the ante for the other four veterans: Grazia, Amica, Anna and Gioia, who had to scramble to compete for tight advertising budgets in a tough market. Donna Moderna, also a weekly, is directed at a mass audience and is considered to be in a league of its own.
Now the market is growing again, but even after a flurry of facelifts, special promotions and price wars, Io Donna and D are still gobbling up the lion’s share of advertising lire invested in women’s weeklies here.
According to industry statistics, the number of ad pages published by the weeklies rose 20 percent as of the end of September, compared with the first nine months of 1996, an increase that went almost entirely to Io Donna and D. Both weeklies are attracting the attention of top U.S. fashion editors, as well.
“My clients never leave these two magazines out of their media buy,” said Karla Otto, who operates her own public relations studio here, representing such clients as Jil Sander, Callaghan and Marni. “They have a good mix of the right kind of image and strong distribution.”
Io Donna and D have a package that is tough to beat. Each has developed a winning combination of fashion and features that appeals to a broad readership. The two magazines also have other tricks up their sleeves: guaranteed mass distribution and competitive prices. Circulation for both averages between 600,000 and 700,000 copies. Io Donna is distributed with Corriere on Saturdays, while D comes out on Tuesdays.
“We have the advantage of a constant level of distribution while other publications have huge peaks and valleys, depending on special promotions,” said Giandomenico Zanini, managing director of A. Manzoni & C Spa, which sells advertising for La Repubblica.
The price for an ad page in Io Donna or D averages around $10,000 (17 million lire). Even though the other weeklies dropped their average rates by as much as 6 to 15 percent, the two newcomers keep racking up advertising. Each is expected to register some $40 million (70 billion lire) in advertising sales this year.
“The price is right, and the impact is incredible,” said Franco Savorelli, a veteran public relations expert who most recently worked for Fendi, among other clients.
“My mission is to offer the same quality of a monthly magazine in a weekly,” said D editor Daniela Hamaui during a recent interview. Her strategy has been to pair strong, innovative fashion shoots by photographers such as Enrique Badulescu, Christophe Kutner, Mikael Jansson and Wayne Maser with hard-hitting photojournalism spreads and essays by top Italian journalists.
“I have tried to follow the rhythm of our daily lives,” said Hamaui.
Firenza Vallino, editor of Io Donna, didn’t return phone calls.
Italy’s main monthlies — Vogue, Glamour, Marie Claire, Elle and Harper’s Bazaar — are holding onto, and in some cases, boosting, their market share, despite the new competition. Most publishers say, though, that times are rough, competition is cutthroat and the only way to stay ahead is to keep coming up with fresh ideas.
“The future isn’t bleak, but it isn’t exactly rosy: There is much more competition in the marketplace today — including daily newspapers with color supplements and advertising — so our goal is simply to maintain what we already have. That’s the most we can hope for,” said Massimo Rametta, director of advertising and marketing at Arnoldo Mondadori Editore.
Rametta said Marie Claire’s ad pages dropped 3 percent this year, due in part to a decision to stop cello-wrapping free gifts with the magazine — a trend many Italian women’s publications are following as they move upmarket. He added that the magazine is mapping out new strategies to compete better in the more crowded market.
Vogue is a different story. The magazine boosted its ad pages by 10 percent this year — but not without hard work.
“We did a great job — and we were also very lucky,” said Alessandro Buda, advertising director of Vogue and Glamour. “That rise came from intensifying our relationships with advertisers, seeking new ones, proposing fresh ad formulas and sponsoring events where Vogue is the center of attention.”
Industry observers say that in the past few years, Vogue has progressively drawn advertising away from Italy’s daily newspapers. “Designers and fashion houses once considered newspapers such as La Repubblica and Corriere della Sera their main vehicle for reaching the trade. That’s no longer true. Today, Vogue is the main vehicle, and it’s becoming more and more important in the sector,” said Giorgio Poli, owner of the advertising agency Studio Poli.
As for next year’s results, Buda said, “I’m cautious. The market is competitive and difficult. This is not exactly a period of expansion, so I don’t expect growth to be as high. But I’m certainly going to work as hard as I can.”
Buda said Glamour’s ad pages rose 20 percent this year — in part, because of an aggressive subscriptions campaign that cost upward of 2 billion lire ($1.2 million). Buda also sought new ways to work with advertisers: With Clinique, he published a miniature version of Glamour and distributed it in perfumeries around the country.
Publisher Giuseppe Della Schiava said he’s confident Harper’s Bazaar Italia will ride out this tough time. “Harper’s Bazaar has been around for 25 years; it’s not some startup publication. I am sure we will be able to maintain our position in the market. We are well known both in Italy and internationally. We don’t have to fight for anything.”
Della Schiava said the magazine usually carries about 2,500 ad pages per year, but added that it was premature to say whether that number would rise or fall in 1998. He denied rumors that Harper’s Bazaar is having financial troubles and on the verge of closing.
One monthly that’s making a fresh start — for the third time in several years — is Donna, published by Rusconi Editore. The magazine, under the direction of Vera Montanari, editor in chief of the weekly magazine Gioia, another Rusconi publication, plans to update its graphics and focus more on trends, to position itself between the fashion-forward Vogue and the more mainstream Elle.
Next week: The British magazine outlook.