DESPITE TOUGH TIMES, SMALL FASHION FIRMS KEEP THE ADS FLOWING
Byline: Leonard McCants / With contributions from Lisa Lockwood
NEW YORK — With the economy crawling, sales and profits on the wane, and more corporate layoffs on the horizon, now may be the best time to advertise, especially for smaller brands, according to several apparel executives.
Despite common sense dictating otherwise, buying space in periods of economic instability may help further brand awareness and foster a sense of consistency with consumers and competitors alike, they contended. This is particularly true for brands that have a following they need to maintain, but don’t have major campaigns financed by a cadre of licensees.
“An economy that is vibrant is better for everyone, it makes things a little bit easier,” said Matt Rubel, chairman and chief executive officer of Cole Haan. “We’re lucky we have the wherewithal to increase demand creation when everyone else is retrenching. It reinforces to the consumer that we have product to show them. And there will be less noise in the marketplace.”
These aggressive fashion ad buyers are bringing some good news to a publishing sector that has been hit by a weak economy, the disappearance of dot-com advertising and lackluster retail sales. The factors have hit many of the industry’s stalwart publications, with several media companies laying off workers as they try to meet sales and profit targets.
Through July, many of the fashion magazines are feeling the pinch of corporate belt-tightening. Cosmopolitan, Glamour, Elle, Vogue, Mademoiselle, Self, W and In Style all reported ad page declines, ranging from a slight 0.1 percent dip at In Style to an 18 percent plunge at Mademoiselle, according to Media Industry Newsletter. Other books have done better with ad page increases ranging from 0.6 percent at Marie Claire to 8.2 percent at Jane, as reported.
One way publishers are enticing spending, though, is to offer sweetened so-called “value-added incentives” to advertise, such as marketing and merchandising promotions and tie-ins, as well as better positioning in their magazines.
“Magazines are definitely being very forthcoming with added value to insure your participation on their books,” said Emilio Fields, director of marketing and public relations for Andrew Marc. “But I think it’s good. It sort of creates a closer bond with the magazine and it forces their clients to be more informed of where they want to be.”
For Andrew Marc, national economic conditions have forced the firm to shift its focus away from spending in many different magazines in favor of using four-page inserts in a select group of fashion and lifestyle magazines, including Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, Vanity Fair and In Style.
Fields said catalysts for advertising with a particular publication might include pages in a magazine-sponsored programs such as the VH1/Vogue Fashion Awards or the GQ Men of the Year Awards.
While publishers have not budged on ad pricing, they have helped the leather sportswear and outerwear maker find ways to increase its frequency by 40 percent over last year, even while it augmented advertising spending by less than 8 percent.
“I don’t know if we would have sought out this increase in frequency if the economy were not so tough,” Fields said.
Other companies, especially those whose books are marked with black ink, have been taking advantage of these sluggish times to reinforce their place in the market among customers and competitors.
Accessories manufacturer Cole Haan, which also has an outerwear collection licensed to G-III Apparel Group, is increasing its ad spending by 20 percent for the year, as the company expects to grow at about 18 percent annually, Rubel said.
It also plans to “extend its reach” by adding national publications such as Conde Nast Traveller, Town & Country and The Wall Street Journal, as well as The Los Angeles Times and The New York Times, to its mix of fashion and lifestyle magazines.
Although parent firm Kasper ASL doesn’t plan to advertise this fall as a cost-savings measure, Anne Klein, its bridge sportswear division, plans an aggressive campaign. The company wouldn’t divulge its fall ad budget, but souces peg it over $2 million for fall.
Earlier this summer, Dee deVries Salomon, senior vice president, marketing and corporate communications at Anne Klein, told WWD, “Even though we had all this strength [in terms of brand awareness], people had a very unformed emotional connection with Anne Klein. There wasn’t a real perception of what Anne Klein meant. Anne Klein went through numerous designers and owners and ad campaigns. There hasn’t been one consistent message we’re relating to the customer.”
To combat that, the company hired Lloyd & Co., the New York ad agency headed by Doug Lloyd, to create a fall ad campaign that reflects who the Anne Klein customer is. The ads were photographed by Regan Cameron in Manhattan and feature Bridget Hall.
“We definitely wanted to create desire for the product and wanted to stop people with it,” said Salomon. In one of the black and white images, Hall is shown in a tweed jacket, scarf and dark sunglasses, crossing a New York City street, painted with traffic lines, and in another, she’s shown in a tweed skirt, matching scarf and sweater walking beside a manhole cover.
Ads will break in September in such magazines as In Style, Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Talk, W, House Beautiful, Elle, Town & Country and O, the Oprah Magazine.Salomon expects the campaign “to make enough noise to be on par with its Significant Women campaign,” that was a 32-page Anne Klein campaign in 1998 that featured 30 women of all ages and sizes, from basketball star Lisa Leslie to former Texas governor Ann Richards.
For fall, the company’s AK2 campaign was also shot by Regan Cameron and shows two friends sitting on a park bench. While the budget is slightly smaller than that of Anne Klein, in many cases, the company is running consecutive right hand pages. Ads will run this fall in Mademoiselle, Elle, Marie Claire, In Style, O, the Oprah Magazine, Real Simple and Vogue.
This fall will mark the first time upscale Italian coat manufacturer Ciniza Rocca breaks into the ad market in the U.S. The company is using its spots to not only build up its customer base, but also increase brand awareness in the market.
It decided to use four-page inserts showing four coats — one on each page — to get increased exposure. In addition, Cinzia Rocca has rented ad space on buses during the key October and November coat buying season. Company executives said contrary to gloomy economic predictions, now is an excellent time to get their name out, especially in a need-based category.
“People are still going to buy magazines,” said Denise Bongiorno, Cinzia Rocca’s managing director. “The names that are out there are the ones that they are going to remember.”
While noting that tough times do not dictate cutting ad spending all together, Bud Konheim, chief executive officer of Nicole Miller, admitted that he has cut advertising spending by 20 percent for its collection business, but has kept spending for its bridesmaid business steady.
“Customers expect to see reaffirmation that you are a brand name,” he said.
In order to keep the ad schedule consistent, the company had to find other areas to trim costs. For example, Nicole Miller used less expensive models for its current campaign.
“The shame of all this is that the pictures are better than they have been in the past,” Konheim added.