Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Women's Fashion Mags: We're 'Confident'

min Exclusive! Women's Fashion/Beauty March "Spring Preview" Ad Pages: Are Strong Numbers Indicative Of A Downturn Denied...Or Delayed?

In a winter of economic discontent, here is a sector with plenty of advertising content--and you can pronounce it either way. For beauty and fashion magazines, March's "Spring Preview" is second in importance to September's "Fall," and surprisingly, the numbers below look like a rerun of the March 2007 prosperity, when 16 out of the 18 magazines closed up. Here, the ratio is 15 up/5 down, with monthly records set again by Elle and Vogue (and the New York Times' women's-fashion T), and the chart shows March being the catalyst to a decent first quarter. So far, mostly good, as we enter into the heart of 2008--leading to September.

But the executives of the advertising "up" March magazines were, in boy-scout and girl-scout lingo, p-r-e-p-a-r-e-d. Perhaps none more prepared than Vogue publishing director (since January 2002) Tom Florio, whose sales team broke the March 2007 record by 20 pages. "In October, after meeting with top fashion executives in Europe, I had a strong sense that 2008 would be tough," he says. "So, I gathered my staff and we developed new work-with-the-client strategies, and we built on our existing platforms, including SHOPVOGUE.TV. Our message is that we have a powerful brand that drives consu mers to retail, and, with that, I remain confident about 2008."

So, too, does Elle senior vp/group publisher (since March 2002) Carol Smith, following a March that squeezed past 2007's record by three pages. "Being French, we're helped by the strong Euro against the dollar," she says. "And we're also helped by the affluence of our readers. In March, we are carrying the Swiss designer Akris for the first time in many years, along with new-advertisers Jean Paul Gaultier, Aerosoles, and the more mass TJ Maxx. April is also off the charts, but I am worried about the middle class disappearing."

It is a bigger worry for In Style publisher (since September 2001) Lynette Harrison, because, as would reflect a People spinoff, its 1.7 million circulation is more "mass." "The public feels the pinch, and we feel the pinch," she says, in explaining an estimated 36 ad-page drop to 285. "Advertising has started slowly because while we are getting plenty of beauty/fashion/retail, we are not getting the inserts." Gucci/Chanel are among the IS participants.

W publisher (since March 2005) Nina Lawrence got the insert--30 pages of Gucci --inFebruary (see last week's min), which partially explains the 34 ad-page drop from March 2007's record 475. Also, the loss of Gap, which is not yet running in any magazine this year.

At Harper's Bazaar, publisher Valerie Salembier, who celebrates her fifth anniversary in March, tells of new advertisers Akris/Laura Mercier/Guess/Rena Lange, and for high-society car buffs, Bentley/Lamborghini. Like Elle's Smith, Salembier all but guarantees an up April that will follow a +4.5% March, but September and November (HB's 140th-anniversary last year) will be challenging.

Might also be for Town & Country publisher (since October 1999) Jim Taylor, who will face a November issue that last year marked the 25th anniversary of Princess Grace's passing. But the March T&C was enriched by Prada/Piazza Sempione/Fratelli Rossetti/Prada and, in the HB car spirit, Mercedes, while Marie Claire publisher (since September 2004) Susan Plagemann welcomed Dolce & Gabbana/Emporio Armani/Max Mara and Salvatore Ferragamo.

At Glamour, just-promoted publishing director Bill Wackermann has Tiffany & Co. opposite cover #2 in March as symbolic of a "high-end business that continues to boom." At Cosmopolitan, publishing director (since August 1995) Donna Lagani says that fashion/retail and beauty sectors are "fun and fearless" in March with +24%/+22% differentials.

At Allure, vp/publisher (since April 2001) Nancy Berger Cardone boasts 15 new advertisers this quarter to add to the 80 who joined last year--including, in March, Baume & Mercier/Frederic Fekkai and, for liqueur fans, Hypnotiq. Self vp/publisher (since April 2004) Kim Kelleher says March is retail-driven (Dillard's/Macy's etc.), and, for "alligator buffs," carries Lacoste. Ditto Essence (JC Penney/Wal-Mart, etc.), where president (since January 2005) Michelle Ebanks says that retail is strong, but "fashion is still a battle for us."

Going against a big March 2007 was the "battle" for O publisher (since July 2000) Jill Seelig, but Calvin Klein Apparel debuted. March's ad-down "hiccup" for Redbook publisher (since July 2003) Mary Morgan was partially cured by new jewelry advertiser Silpada Designs. New Japanese facial-care advertiser Shiseido put publisher (since 2005) Sabine Feldmann in better Shape, and counterparts Lee Slattery (Fitness) and Mary Murcko (Women's Health) both reported gains in beauty.

For New York magazine publisher (since July 2003) Larry Burstein and New York Times magazine executive director/advertising (since 2001) Rich Colandrea, it remains--to resuscitate the campaign phrase--the economy, stupid!, which, in the upscale Big Apple, looks, for now, smart.

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