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Web in 'Fashion' for Fall

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After shedding nearly 24 percent of their ad pages last year, fashion magazines are starting to make a comeback. But the telling month will be September, usually their fattest issue of the year.

Once it might have been enough to slip mentions of advertisers’ products and store locations in their editorial pages. But with fashion marketers increasingly looking to move product, the pressure is on magazine publishers to show they can drive consumers to open their wallets with their high-profile and influential fall issues. Increasingly, digital extensions are being launched to accomplish that.

For example, InStyle is planning to launch an online pop-up store to complement its product-packed September issue. The InStyle Boutique is powered by StyleFeeder, an online product recommendation service. InStyle parent Time Inc. bought StyleFeeder early this year in a hunt for new ways to make money as its main source of revenue—print advertising—has shrunk.

During its five-week run, the virtual store will offer product and style tips from InStyle’s editors, but above all, the goal is to drive consumers to shop. The homepage is laid out like a department store (see art), with visitors invited to click on product category “windows.” Sponsors will get their own sections, providing the chic environment important to high-end fashion advertisers.

Sponsors also will be integrated in pre-roll video ads, a daily blog and tweets. They will be able to track the site’s effectiveness by seeing how many visitors click through to purchase their products. InStyle will not get a share of revenue from the products sold.

“The InStyle Boutique takes our most powerful asset, which is our ability to take consumers to the point of purchase,” InStyle publisher Connie Anne Phillips said. “We’re delivering more shoppers, more shelf space and a spectrum of choice to our consumers and our clients.”

Not to ignore print advertising, advertisers on InStyle Boutique also will get a quarter page in an advertorial section that will be part of the September issue. Phillips hopes the program will help it trump Condé Nast’s Vogue, her archrival and from which she defected in February 2009.

In the supercompetitive fashion magazine set, InStyle came out on top in ad pages in the first six months of the year, with 1,123 to Vogue’s 987. But the top spot for September has traditionally gone to Vogue. Last year, Vogue’s September issue, although down 36.7 percent from 2008, was still the fattest in the category, carrying 427 ad pages.

This year could be different, though. “It certainly seems more of an open race,” said Dennis Santos, vp, media director, PGR Media. “It’s no longer a foregone conclusion that one particular book is going to be number one. There are a lot of different reasons, but as advertisers come back, they have a more open view of where they could go. Every dollar spent is more carefully thought about, so they’re more open to being in a more diverse set.”

Other fashion magazines also are taking a cue from advertisers’ growing demand for digital platforms and proof of performance. Condé Nast’s oversized luxury book, W, which has struggled the most of the fashion titles, is planning to run snappable ads throughout its October issue that will let readers shop right from the page when they take a picture of a tag with a camera phone. Stefano Tonchi, who just took over as editor, may start including more products in the front of the book. W will introduce editorial events that will seek sponsorships.

And starting in September, the issues will be themed as Tonchi tries to make W more of a wider-interest book and attract more men, currently only 21 percent of the audience. Themes will include cinema, design, jewelry, travel, music and technology.

W vp and publisher Nina Lawrence said she expected the changes to open W up to more lifestyle advertising categories like auto, liquor and home. Such a move seemingly would put W in more direct competition with other Condé books. But Lawrence said that while W does compete with Vanity Fair and Vogue, it will remain the only title in the company with a focus on fashion and the world it inhabits. “We’re a fashion magazine,” she said, “and Vanity Fair is not.”

Elsewhere, the September issue of Hearst’s Marie Claire will let readers “shop” from the advertising and edit pages alike by taking photos of items with a mobile phone. The magazine also will package a minieditorial shopper’s guide with the issue. “At the end of the day, what advertisers want most is to sell product, and this helps them get closer to their customer,” said vp, publisher Nancy Berger Cardone. Glamour is expected to release an edition for the Apple iPad in September. And Vogue is working on a new version of its eponymous Web site. Condé Nast was late to the game in creating Web counterparts for its magazines, and Vogue’s namesake site hasn’t cracked 200,000 in monthly traffic, according to Compete, despite a print audience of nearly 12 million strong.

But editor Anna Wintour is said to be intent on making the site more robust, and has enlisted interactive agency Code and Theory to help beef it up.