One area that seems to defy the down market is the money people spend on their pets. And marketers have taken notice, as a growing genre of slick, pet-lifestyle magazines suggests.
The latest to be unleashed is Cesar’s Way, a spinoff of the popular National Geographic Channel’s The Dog Whisperer starring dog behavior expert Cesar Millan. Launching Sept. 15, Cesar’s Way is the first regularly published consumer magazine from IMG, the sports, media and entertainment marketing company behind such events as Fashion Week and its related publication The Daily (and Millan’s rep).
It’s also the latest in Millan’s growing media empire, which includes the show going into its sixth season in October, a line of products at Petco, books and a one-hour strip on Twentieth Television starting in fall 2010.
Cesar’s Way will publish twice in 2009 with a guaranteed circulation of 150,000 and six times in 2010, when the rate base will rise to 250,000. Stories will feature celebrities and their dogs, human-interest tales and dog-training tips.
But don’t call it a dog magazine, said Lee Rosenbaum, vp, publishing at IMG and ex-publisher of the erstwhile music magazine Blender. “We show [people’s] lifestyles and how dogs fit within their lifestyle,” he said, adding, “It’s a bit of a mixed breed.”
Indeed, this new breed of pet magazines considers itself a different animal from the older, less-glitzy pet titles like Dog Fancy and American Kennel Club publications. (That top fashion photog Gilles Bensimon shot the cover of the first issue of Cesar’s Way is but one indication.)
“I think we try to transcend that Best in Show stereotype,” Rosenbaum quipped. Other such “dog culture” magazines include The Bark, a six-times-a-year magazine and Modern Dog, a quarterly.
“Dog Fancy, the old, traditional take on dogs, was just basically about service, how to show [and] breed dogs,” said Cameron Woo, publisher of 120,000-circ The Bark, adding that his title “launched a whole wave of pet coverage.”
Such titles are making inroads with not just pet food marketers but blue-chip auto, travel and packaged goods advertisers. The Bark is on track to carry about 200 ad pages this year including Bissell, Jeep and Subaru with its irreverent coverage (recent topics included the South Korean practice of dining on dog and canine representation in Renaissance painting).
“It has broadened from the traditional advertisers—dog food, accessories, toys and leashes—[from] companies that…carry those things as part of their business to car companies who want to reach out to this demographic,” Woo said.
Similarly, Cesar’s Way is carrying Sketchers, JetBlue and Best Western in its launch issue in addition to Frontline and Del Monte pet food. “The dog is really part of the family, and a caregiver is a caregiver,” explained Rosenbaum. “So if you can engage that caregiver, it’s easy to engage them in talking about the other members of the family.”
Established print media also have taken note of the pet craze.
Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia this year launched a new pet channel on its Web site and added related content to its TV and radio show and in its magazines Martha Stewart Living, Everyday Food and Body + Soul. Nestlé Purina PetCare was the sponsor.
Also, Hearst’s Country Living has expanded its pet coverage this year under editor Sarah Gray Miller and has seen an uptick in pet advertising. People.com started a pets channel in December to tap into reader interest in celebrities’ pets.
Betsy Baltzer, media acquisition director for Kansas City-based agency Bernstein-Rein, sees a lot of growth in the pet media category, reflecting consumers’ continued spending on their pets.
Yet Baltzer said national publications’ efforts to add pet content don’t always succeed. “Some just want to do advertorial sections,” she said. “It’s not as committed. The advantage of the pet enthusiast [title] is you know someone is reading the publication because they truly are a pet enthusiast.”