Hearst Cuts Green Cross-Title eBay Buy

Readers of Hearst Magazines as diverse as Cosmopolitan, Popular Mechanics and House Beautiful go to those titles for very different reasons, but in their April issues, all will find the editors’ take on a common topic: the environment. Between tips from Cosmo on keeping green in the bedroom (natural lubricants, bamboo sheets), to Esquire’s manly green product recommendations (manual lawn mowers, hatchback for guys), all 14 Hearst titles are giving their spin on the green revolution as part of a so-called 30 Days of Green campaign.

It’s the latest manifestation of Hearst’s cross-title advertising programs that have carried home, beauty and fashion themes. But while previous 30 Days programs were advertorial-based and ran in a limited number of titles, 30 Days of Green is the first to include editorial content and run across Hearst’s entire portfolio.

eBay is sponsoring the whole package, which includes a gatefold that wraps each title’s green edit. Hearst’s integrated media department developed the promotional content, which is customized to each title.

In these times when magazines are struggling to sell ad pages, publishers are going further to come up with unusual editorial treatments that have advertiser appeal—sometimes raising concerns that clients are having too much influence over the content. The Hearst initiative bears similiarity to one at Time Inc., where five dissimilar titles including Time, People and Fortune served up ad-sponsored editorial sections on 3-D technology.

Michael Clinton, executive vp, chief marketing officer and publishing director for Hearst Magazines, said each Hearst title got two extra pages and was told to fill it with green-related content. He said the editors didn’t know who the advertiser was and that eBay wasn’t involved in the editorial. Did anyone balk? “Not at all,” Clinton said. “I’ve never met an editor who didn’t like more editorial space.”

Clinton said that the environment was a natural fit for the titles, many of which already cover the topic here and there. “Regardless of whether you’re Esquire or Seventeen or Good Housekeeping, green is important to any lifestyle in any interpretation.” Clinton added that he’s on the lookout for other topics that have potential to work editorially and find ad support across all titles.

Sid Holt, chief executive of the American Society of Magazine Editors, said 30 Days of Green didn’t appear to violate ASME’s guidelines to uphold the separation of editorial and advertising because there was no indication that eBay was endorsed by or influenced the editorial content. “What we’re seeing overall is new executions around the industry because of challenges and opportunities advertisers have in using print to reach consumers,” he said.
“We’re going through a period of change, and there’s always the shock of the new.”

House Beautiful editor Stephen Drucker  said he was “jumping up and down” at the extra space to give to a topic he covers “sporadically.” Esquire’s David Granger emailed that he used the space to make “a few jokes,” in keeping with the magazine’s tone. “It’s pretty easy to come up with an entertaining way to use two extra pages of editorial.”

While its stated purpose was to educate consumers, the campaign also delivered 42 ad pages and a new client for Hearst. The outlay, which a source close to the deal said was in the seven figures, was a significant one for eBay, which spent only $2 million in print last year, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus. All told, the campaign reaches 70 million print readers and a circ of more than 20 million.

The campaign also includes banner ads for eBay on Hearst’s Web sites and a new green-themed channel of eBay to which TheDailyGreen.com, Hearst’s green lifestyle site, will contribute content.

The print component complemented eBay’s online messaging to encourage its consumers to think green, said eBay rep Amy Skoczlas Cole. “It was reaching people when they’re making consumer decisions,” she said. “That was why we chose the [print] advertising format.”