Byline: Nancy Brumback

CHICAGO — Women in the fashion industry think most fashion ads convey the wrong messages and that’s a big reason they spent less on clothes in 1994.
Those are key findings of a survey of 1,000 women executives who are members of the Fashion Group International.
The study was commissioned by The Newspaper Association of America last November and the results were presented Friday at the Retail Advertising Conference here by Ann C. Hunt, president of Hunt & Co., a New York research firm that conducted the survey. Hunt suggested retailers could do more to spark business by reshaping their advertising, adding, “It’s time to surrender the fantasy that an uptick in apparel sales is only a quarter away.” The increasing media coverage of fashion, with its emphasis on designers, supermodels and photographers, may also turn off women, she said.
She said some stores have been hurt because they are not addressing a growing preference for “seasonless dressing” and more casual wardrobes. The survey showed only 39.6 percent of the executives found fashion advertising compelling. The five companies most often cited as having effective advertising were The Gap Inc., Barneys New York, Kenneth Cole, Banana Republic and Ralph Lauren.
“Our hope is an improvement in the tone of fashion advertising and an improvement in sales,” added Pamela Stull, vice president and director of retail marketing and advertising for The Newspaper Association.
Asked to rate which advertising techniques were most effective, 65 percent of those surveyed cited realistic situations; 38.5 percent found glamorous fantasy themes more appealing.
Ads highlighting controversy were relevant to 24.5 percent; ads with computer graphics, 22 percent; with sex and sensuality, 20 percent; with humor, 20 percent; featuring supermodels, 17.5 percent, and with hard-edged, im-plied-violence themes, 10 percent.
Sixty percent of respondents said seasonal ad campaigns sold fashion merchandise, and 49 percent cited seasonal clearance ads.
The item featured in a retail ad is the most important factor in attracting customers, according to 84 percent of those surveyed. The next most important is price.
Asked about their shopping preferences, 60.5 percent of the industry women rated classics and basics as extremely important to their wardrobes, followed by the “latest fashion looks.”
Top designer names and branded names tied in importance.
Almost two-thirds, or 63 percent, said they always shop for specific items. The same percentage said they spent less on fashion-related merchandise in 1994.
When asked how fashion advertising could be improved, the women surveyed were almost unanimous, said Hunt. “Advertising should stop the hype, the edginess, sexism and condescension,” Hunt said.
As examples of effective retail fashion advertisers, Hunt cited Sears, Roebuck, R.H. Macy and Target. — Fairchild News Service