FRENCH MAGAZINES REBOUND
Byline: Jennifer Weil
PARIS — After more than a year of flat advertising figures, French women’s magazines are finally emerging from the doldrums. The number of ad pages sold has picked up by 10 percent in the first half of 1997, according to the French market research firm Secodip.
Industry observers attribute the increase to several factors. One is a renewed attempt by beauty and fashion companies to reach a younger clientele through publications that have undergone recent attempts at repositioning, as well as some of the newer magazines.
“The brands are trying to interest young women, since they are the ones who set fashion trends,” said Luciano Bosio, director of press at Carat, a media buying and consulting firm here.
Fragrance brands being pushed include Chanel’s Allure fragrance, Montana and Paco Rabanne’s Paco; Lancome and Dior are touting their beauty products; Yves Saint Laurent eyewear, Louis Vuitton accessories and Van Cleef & Arpels fine jewelry are being promoted, and apparel advertisers include Ferragamo, Cacharel, Feraud and Moscino, and Valentino’s V Zone and Miss V.
Other observers say the increased advertising sales reflect a strengthening of the French economy.
“Higher women’s magazine revenues mark a recovery rather than actual growth,” said Laurence Patry, client services director for Initiative Media, a media and consulting firm here.
“This year seems to be very good for high-end women’s magazines,” Patry said.
Some publications, such as Biba and Gala, which were repositioned a few years ago, are also on the upswing. There is a new buzz among the fashion crowd about Biba, which had a remake 3 1/2 years ago. Its ad pages increased 26 percent in the first half, according to Secodip.
“It always takes a publication a couple of years to mature,” said Valerie Camille, Biba’s director of advertising. And then it takes some more time for the market to react to the product, observers say.
Gala has registered a 61 percent increase in ad pages for the 12 months ended June 30.
About two years ago, fashion and beauty were added to the publication’s repertoire, making it one of the few celebrity news and fashion magazines in France. “It is that combination that pleases our advertisers,” said Marie-Noelle Demay, Gala’s managing editor in chief.
Celebrity titles in general are doing well.
Weekly Voici, for instance, has had a 21 percent increase in ad pages for the year ended June 1997, according to Secodip. And large-format, twice-yearly fashion magazine Mixt(e) Max has gotten good reviews after its third issue. “It’s incredibly well printed, with a daring layout,” Patry said.
Such long-established French women’s publications as the weeklies Elle and Figaro Madame and the monthly Marie Claire all had ad-page growth for the year ended in June. Elle was up 11 percent, Figaro Madame 1 percent, and Marie Claire, whose 448,000 circulation is the biggest of the high-end French women’s monthly publications, gained 8 percent.
And Vogue, which had been on rocky ground since Conde Nast, its publisher, shut down numerous titles, including French Glamour and Maison et Jardin, about two years ago, saw an increase of 12 percent in ad pages for the 12 months ended in June, Secodip said.
The newest entrants on the French women’s magazine scene — Jalouse, DS and Femina — are attracting such established names as Yves Saint Laurent, Kenzo, Nina Ricci, Chanel and Valentino as advertisers about six months after launch.
Jalouse, which means “jealous,” was introduced on April 24 by Editions Jalou, the family-owned publisher of the high-end fashion title L’Officiel. It has an average of 30 ad pages per issue. With a circulation of more than 100,000 after the first three issues, the title has surpassed its goal by 25 percent, said Olivier Jungers, director of communication and marketing.
Some say that Jalouse has filled the hole left vacant by French Glamour. “Jeune & Jolie and 20 Ans are not as cultural and high-end as we are; Depeche Mode is younger, and Biba and Cosmo represent an older audience [than Jalouse],” Jungers said of the other French young women’s publications.
Yet not everyone is starstruck by the magazine.
“I am a bit disappointed with Jalouse. It has fallen short of what it set out to do, especially in terms of tone — it isn’t witty,” one industry source said.
“I am not optimistic for Jalouse,” Bosio said.
DS (whose title is a play on the French word “deesse,” which means “goddess”) has an unexpected mix of fashion and news. In the October issue, for instance, there is a double-page spread on the massacres in Algeria just 24 pages away from a feature story on Kim Basinger. DS was also launched in April and is now selling on average 130,000 issues per month, beating its target by 10,000, according to Tessa Ivascu, managing editor in chief.
Newsstand sales of the second issue were shaky, though, and DS learned from that the value of having a well-known face on the cover. “We had shot a model in a bathing suit for our swimwear issue — that came one month after all the other women’s publications launched their swimwear issues — and realized that we had to switch back to having more well-known subjects,” said Ivascu.
Since then, faces such as those of Carole Bouquet and Karen Mulder have appeared, and newsstand sales have increased.
Femina, sold as a supplement to weekly papers in three regions of France, has a growing circulation of 650,000, which is on target, according to a spokesman at the magazine.
The publication has sparked divergent reactions.
“I can’t see it working,” Patry said. “It has a problem with positioning. If it could be run like a TV supplement in terms of cost it could work, but there are many journalists who need to be hired to fill all those pages. Also, it has a very old-fashioned look.”
Yet Biba’s Camille said that the title has been well accepted and has launched in a market yet untapped in France.