THE AD PAGE CHALLENGE: HOW TO BEAT ’97
PUBLISHERS ARE CAUTIOUSLY APPROACHING 1998, HOPING THEY CAN TOP A TERRIFIC YEAR.
Byline: Lisa Lockwood
NEW YORK — Fashion and lifestyle publishers are hoping 1997’s good times keep rolling right along into 1998.
In fact, 1997 turned out a lot better than most anticipated. Beating those numbers will be a challenge, and publishers are keeping their fingers crossed the buoyant economy continues and the luxury sector, in particular, remains healthy and vibrant.
Brand building via aggressive spending by U.S. and European fashion firms is expected to continue in 1998. But the beauty business, which hasn’t been exactly robust this year, remains a tougher proposition. Publishers said they’re anticipating some beauty and treatment launches in the first half, and they’re banking on increased spending by the Estee Lauder Co., now that it has the Donna Karan Beauty license.
Regardless of spending projections, a big hurdle remains for many magazines: Newsstand sales, with a handful of exceptions, are sluggish. As a result, Hollywood stars will be taking over more covers than ever, as magazines turn to celebrity to boost newsstand business.
Discussing prospects for 1998, Ronald A. Galotti, publisher of Vogue, said, “It’s so early. We’re just closing December. But from everything we see and what retailers tell me, their business is good, so my business is good. So far it sounds like it will be pretty positive.”
Galotti noted that the European business seems to be strong, “and without any major things changing, we expect to see a very strong first half.”
“I’ve never been one to be overly optimistic. People spin it a million different ways. It’s hard for anyone to crystal-ball 1998, so much of our business is dependent on the fall,” said Galotti.
“In general,” said Galotti, “most of the stores feel the designer business is quite good. The last 45 days of the year are responsible for the year for a lot of these companies. Everything seems to be on track.”
Vogue, which gave advertisers the added incentive of TV ads this year, will finish 1997 up 10 percent in ad pages. He said that the first half turned out to be better than expected and the second half was “outstanding.” Vogue will end the year close to 2,800 ad pages, said Galotti.
He said both the beauty and fashion business were each up 10 percent in ad pages, while the retail business moved ahead 8 percent.
Among some of the growth opportunities for Vogue are the liquor and automotive categories.
“We’ve had tremendous growth this year,” said Louis Cona, associate publisher of In Style. The magazine’s ad pages surged 76 percent to 1,320. Cona attributed the gains to beauty and apparel.
The big news at In Style is that the magazine will enter the black this year, two years earlier than expected. “It’s been a long haul,” he said.
Cona said the magazine estimates 15 percent gains in the first half of 1998. Among the growth areas are prestige and mass beauty brands.
“One of the areas we need to do better is getting some of the [fashion] portfolios. You have to crawl before you walk. When we started out, we were getting fragrances, then accessories lines and now sportswear. You have to pay your dues.”
In January, In Style will raise its rate base to 900,000 from 800,000. And since 70 percent of In Style’s sales are done on the newsstand, it’s one of the few publications that’s not feeling the single-copy pinch.
In Style also published a 13th issue this year about 50 Years of Hollywood Style, featuring Michelle Pfeiffer on the cover, that was sponsored by Liz Claiborne, Cosmair and Chrysler. “We’re hoping to do another 13th issue next year,” said Cona.
Cona noted that the automotive business is doing very well, and Detroit manufacturers have supported the title since the beginning. “We’re getting great response from Ford, General Motors and Chrysler,” he said.
“We’re looking to grow business in shelter [home lines],” said Cona, noting that one of the strongest parts of its franchise is its “At Home With” features.
Carl Portale, senior vice president, group publisher of Elle, noted that the magazine will finish 1997 up 14 percent in ad pages. That follows a 10 percent gain in 1996 and a 12 percent increase in 1995.
Portale attributed the increases to the toiletries and cosmetics category, which gained 27 percent in ad pages.
“Apparel manufacturing was great this year, and I see no reason for a change in 1998. There’s a bit of nervousness throughout the core categories, but I’m looking for a 5 to 8 percent increase in 1998,” said Portale.
This year, Portale said he invested in people and resources for the fine jewelry and fur categories, and next year he hopes to do some studies on cosmetics purchasing behavior and get editors closer to the industry with trends and forecasts.
Stephanie George, executive vice president, group publisher of W, will finish 1997 up 20 percent in ad pages. She said she expects to close the year with 1,750 ad pages.
The apparel, footwear and accessories categories showed a 41 percent gain in ad pages, said George, while beauty had slight gains.
George predicts that the European business will be even stronger in 1998. Other growth categories are jewelry, salon products and automotive.
George said newsstand sales in the first half of 1997 were up 19 percent. The magazine has a rate base of 400,000. “We want to grow gracefully. We have a very exact consumer, and to lose that consumer is dangerous,” said George.
Harper’s Bazaar, which celebrated its fifth anniversary under editor in chief Liz Tilberis this September, will end 1997 with a 3 percent increase in ad pages, according to Jeannette Chang, publisher.
After a 1.4 percent increase in September, October’s ad pages were off 17.7 percent, and November’s were down 13.5 percent, according to Media Industry Newsletter. The magazine’s November issue is a tribute to Princess Diana, who’s featured on the cover. For the first half of 1998, Chang predicts an 8 to 11 percent increase.
“We are expanding our Web site, which will benefit advertisers with additional promotional and marketing capabilities,” said Chang, particularly fashion trends and directions.
Chang sees the biggest opportunities coming from an expansion of both American and European business in both designer and bridge categories. Another area of growth is the luxury import auto category. In fact, HB will run a 16-page insert for the Mazda 626 in its upcoming December issue.
Chang predicts a 10 to 15 percent increase in the fashion and beauty business in the first half of 1998. In addition, she’s looking for growth in the beauty category, particularly from drug and salon products.
Allure, which is in the midst of a makeover, finished 1997 with a 6.4 percent increase in ad pages. But in the first half of 1997, newsstand sales were off 9 percent.
The magazine, which declined 29.7 percent in ad pages in September and 22.2 percent in November, had a 3.4 percent gain in October, when it ran its “Best of Beauty” issue, according to MIN. Despite the ups and downs, 1977 will be Allure’s largest year in [ad pages] in its history.
According to Alexandra Golinkin, publisher of Allure, beauty ad pages for the year were up 14 percent.
Allure’s fashion business was flat in 1997, and Golinkin said “it’s about six to eight weeks early to have a real handle” on the category for next year. She noted that Allure is stronger in the American fashion business, but the Italian business is growing.
For the fifth year, Allure will do an annual makeover issue in January, the month that the magazine will launch its redesign.
Mitchell Fox, publisher of Vanity Fair, said, “Nineteen ninety-seven was a blockbuster year, in every respect. We cast a wider net to secure more fashion advertising, and similarly, we enjoyed more advertising support from existing clients,” said Fox.
For the year, VF’s ad pages are up 11 percent to 1,692 — a record year, said Fox.
VF, which was off 11 percent in ad pages in September, followed with two blockbuster issues back to back. October, its New Establishment issue, was up 27.5 percent in ad pages, while November, its World Power issue, recorded a 22.1 percent gain in ad pages, according to MIN.
“For 1998, fashion clients report that business continues to be robust and advertising commitments are coming in early with significant volume,” said Fox. He noted that all the major designers have said they want to do the same or more advertising in 1998 and are locking positions up accordingly.
He said that fashion business in 1997 was up and that beauty was flat. “It’s not a robust year in the beauty category,” said Fox.
Fox said VF’s European fashion business, primarily focused on the larger designers, continues to be “very strong.”
One area where Fox sees potential is the high-end designer men’s wear business. He also sees growth in the technology, automotive and footwear categories.
As for the first half of 1998, Fox said if it were flat, it would still match the largest first half in the magazine’s history.
Donna Kalajian, publisher of Cosmopolitan, said the magazine will report a 13 percent gain in ad pages for the year, winding up with 1,870 ad pages.
“Next year, we continue to feel very optimistic,” said Kalajian.
She noted that editor in chief Bonnie Fuller’s issues have been “performing incredibly well.”
“Her issues [from March through September] are up 13 percent on the newsstand at a time when newsstand, in general, is down,” said Kalajian.
Most notable this year was the August Cosmo, featuring Jennifer Aniston on the cover. That issue sold 2.3 million newsstand copies, said Kalajian, making it a three-million-copy issue.
She said that in January, Cosmo will raise its rate base to 2.3 million, from 2.25. In February, Cosmo will anniversary its “Fun Fearless Female” issue. The magazine’s growth categories are fashion, beauty and liquor, added Kalajian.
Cynthia Lewis, publisher of Marie Claire, said she expects 1998 to get off to a strong start. She said January is usually a soft month, but because Gwyneth Paltrow is the guest editor of the issue, it’s pulled in 47 ad pages, about 10 more than a year ago.
“I think the first half for us will be very good. Glenda [Baily, editor in chief] now has 12 issues under her belt,” said Lewis.
Among the opportunities for Marie Claire are the home and automotive categories.
As for the beauty business: “It’s been flat for everybody. But I’m feeling good about Estee Lauder Corp. and Cosmair. We expect to see gains from both divisions, and now Estee Lauder has the Donna Karan Beauty Co.
“I’m being optimistically cautious,” said Lewis.
She noted that a lot of magazines might lose the Coty business, which plans to do more TV advertising next year. “They won’t walk away from print, but they’ll be inviting good ideas,” said Lewis.
In February, the magazine will raise its rate base to 650,000 from 600,000.
At Mademoiselle, ad pages are up 6 percent for 1997.
“What’s notable about this year is there was tremendous vitality in the marketplace,” said Victoria Lasdon Rose, publisher. She said the increase was on top of an 11 percent gain in 1996 and a 15 percent gain in 1995.
Rose said the fashion business was up between 15 and 20 percent, while the beauty business was relatively flat. Rose anticipates plus business from some of the major fragrance, skin care and treatment launches in 1998.
On the downside, Rose said newsstand sales were off 8 percent in the first half. “It’s been a very competitive market,” she noted.
To help boost newsstand sales, Mademoiselle has begun featuring celebrities on the cover, such as Julia Roberts in July, Nicole Kidman in November and Cameron Diaz for December.
“Putting celebrities on the cover is a big opportunity for us. And we’re following through with an article inside,” said Rose.
Among the growth areas for Mademoiselle are automotive and health.
“We’re cautiously optimistic. We expect to be up an average of 5 percent for the year ,” said Rose.
Jane will publish its third issue in mid-January and is upbeat about business next year.
“It looks like we’ll be on budget. We’re feeling very bullish about spring. We’ll be getting a lot of business from Italy,” said Lorin Litner, publisher.
She said that Jane’s second issue, with Robin Wright Penn on the cover, contained 64 ad pages, and more than half the advertisers in the debut issue had come into the second issue without any incentive rates.
“Beauty will be a definite powerhouse for the future,” said Litner, especially mass beauty. She also said moderate fashion companies represent another opportunity. So far, Jane has carried Nike, Esprit, Abercrombie & Fitch and Benetton.
Beth Brenner, publisher of Self, said the magazine was up 17 percent for the year. She said the beauty category was up 25 percent, and fashion increased 17 percent. Growth areas for Self include the financial, communications and technology categories.
Brenner noted that there were fewer beauty launches in 1997 and less scent strip activity. “I think it can only go up.”
US magazine is looking for a 10 percent increase in ad pages in the first half of 1998, said Dana Fields, vice president, group publisher of Wenner Media.
“We’ve made a major commitment to the fashion category and will have six themed issues next year marrying entertainment and fashion,” said Fields. She said that all of the shoots will be done on “up-and-coming hot young Hollywood stars.”
Next year, US will also reprise its “Crazy, Sexy, Cool” issue, but in September, rather than November. The November “Crazy, Sexy, Cool” issue, which was up 18 percent from a year ago, carried 85.8 ad pages, according to MIN.
For 1997, the fashion category was up 10 percent, while beauty moved ahead 9.4 percent.
“What’s going on at US is we have the major mass market [beauty] brands, and now we’re getting Calvin Klein and Chanel and other upscale department store brands,” said Fields.
Among the growth areas for US next year are fashion, beauty, entertainment and technology, she said.
For the European magazine outlook, see Marketing/ Media, Section I.