WHO’S ACCOUNTABLE?

Byline: Georgia Lee

ATLANTA — The days of “take an ad and take your chances” are long gone.
Today, print advertising is a complex collaboration between savvy publishers and clients who hold them increasingly accountable for results.
And competition is fierce, what with the proliferation of magazines and new media vehicles putting more pressure on publishers than ever before. Magazines have to prove that ads reach readers, make them buy products and leave them loyal to the brand.
Publishers are asked to deliver extensive demographic information defining readership in minute detail, including age, income and spending habits, as well as third-party research that tracks a magazine’s success. Publishers also provide clients with databases — invaluable tools that allow advertisers to zero in on target groups.
And research continues after the deal is done. Reader surveys, shopping guides, 800 numbers and question-and-answer columns help advertisers track an ad’s impact on sales. But sales results, often hard to gauge, are only part of a bigger picture. Advertising partnerships today are designed to build brands — on both sides of the fence.
Brand building, that all-important goal, has turned marketing, positioning and imaging into an art form. Publishers promote partnerships that include elaborate events, sponsorships and lavish special sections. Relationships are symbiotic, with publishers and clients leveraging each other’s brands. Advertising “packages,” with added value programs, are now the norm.
“Everything has ratcheted up a notch,” said Peter Hunsinger, vice president and publisher of Vanity Fair, who noted that the early Nineties downsizing mentality also contributed to today’s competitive climate. “So many fashion magazines are the same, so it comes down to who stands out, with the best brand-building environment and all the bells and whistles.”
Vanity Fair-sponsored events reinforce the image — film festivals in Telluride and Campaign Hollywood, a two-week event that includes a splashy Oscar party. “Vanity Fair’s Hollywood,” a 320-page $60 book, hit bookstores Oct. 23., and its photographs are in windows of 90 stores along Manhattan’s Madison Avenue, including DKNY and Hermes, that will raise funds for The Pink Ribbon Project for breast cancer treatment programs.
Tracking brand-building results, while highly subjective, is possible, said advertisers. For 18 years, the Benetton Group focused only on building brand awareness rather than product. The company’s often-controversial ad messages, on racial equality, AIDS or capital punishment, resulted in a high recognition factor.
Through global brand surveys, Benetton ranked in the top 100 recognizable brands, according to Mark Major, U.S. spokesman. Benetton’s institutional campaigns are avant-garde messages designed for a wide range of publications, including the New Yorker and Interview, while more product-oriented campaigns target fashion magazines, like Seventeen.
For Benetton, accountability means integrity.
“Publishers start in with their numbers, and we say throw them aside,” said Major. “We’re a courageous company and we want to advertise in a courageous, forthright book, not just one that promises the most consumer sales.”
With sales tracking as a short-term barometer, Jones Apparel Group also uses advertising to build long-term brand image, said Benny Lin, senior vice president. Through a media agency, Jones tracks sales of specific advertised outfits, noting significant jumps in total sales after special “impact” sections in Vogue and InStyle.
Positioning within the magazine is also crucial, along with 800 phone numbers and shopping guides that help gauge results, said Lin.
“We’re very selective with our partners, and we review our magazine list all the time,” said Lin. “They give us demographics, and we track our own sales record.”
Well-established magazines are expanding advertising parameters with splashy special sections that go beyond advertorials. Single-sponsor inserts and outserts are hot new sources of magazines’ additional revenue.
“We’ve reached 90 percent of our ad potential, so we’re extending the brand with supplements,” said Carl Portale, senior vice president and publisher of Elle. “The cost of supplements is less than the monthly, and we already have the overhead, so it’s not a risk.”
This year, Elle will produce its second annual city guide supplement, a $1 million-plus venture with Gucci, which profiles Atlanta, Phoenix, Dallas, Chicago and Boston — all cities where Gucci is undergoing major store redesigns. Editorial is produced under Elle’s masthead to lend credibility. E Elle, a recent 25-page guide to Internet shopping, focused on high-end fashion dot-com businesses, including Gucci.com, Saks.com or BCBG.com, at $32,000 a page.
Accountability starts with unique editorial that resonates with readers and advertisers, according to Louis Cona, publisher of InStyle. Consolidation in all industries has resulted in more sophisticated media planning and execution, as well as a demand for new, innovative editorial. InStyle’s editorial mix runs from fashion and entertaining to home and beauty, and it also produces several additional themed issues each year, such as Weddings, The Look, Makeove and Entertaining. While InStyle has broadened editorially, other publications focus on clearly defined niche markets, as Allure does with beauty. “We target a smaller group, but a passionate one,” said Allure publisher Suzanne Grimes.
Partnering with all 23 Bloomingdale’s stores this year, Allure held a Backstage Beauty event, including point-of-sale videos and reports on beauty trends at the European collections. Allure’s Best of Beauty October issue offers best products as chosen by editors and readers. Post-production research found that 82 percent of readers bought something advertised or featured editorially in the October issue.
Allure will bring together readers and advertisers this Saturday at its second annual Beauty Block Party in New York on West Broadway and Wooster Street. The carnival atmosphere will feature vendor-sponsored booths such as Chanel’s “Lip Print Psychic Reader” and Shiseido’s “Zen Zone” massages, as well as booths from firms such as Aveda, Estee Lauder, Lancome and Neutrogena. Beauty experts, makeovers, styling, product sales and a silent auction are all part of the day’s activities.
In-store events are more important than ever. Tommy Hilfiger Inc. has partnered with magazines in 100 events this year, from fashion shows to styling seminars and guest appearances. Hilfiger also produced two 26-page outserts with Vogue, and one with Vanity Fair, with editorial on music, entertainment and style. Total company sales showed significant increases following publication.
With an increased ad budget for 2000, Hilfiger’s multifaceted strategy is to drive traffic, directly increase sales and build the brand. In addition to pure-play fashion magazines, Hilfiger uses Teen People, Martha Stewart Living and O, the Oprah Magazine.
A magazine’s credibility is crucial, according to Peter Connolly, president of worldwide marketing and communications.
“Research shows people are brand-loyal to magazines, unlike television stations, like ABC or NBC,” said Connolly. “There’s an emotional connection, as if the magazine endorses the product for you.” Tommy relies on data from MRI, or Mediamark Research Inc., to determine which magazines are the best fit.
While the available research is staggering, most advertisers use more subjective measures to judge a magazine’s accountability.
“Everything can’t be measured with numbers,” said Kenneth Richard, vice president of advertising for BCBG. “We look at all the demographics and statistics and we track sales, but in the end, we rely on intuition. We usually know whether a magazine is in sync with us.”

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