Consumer Magazine Report: Issues & Answers – Going For The Gold

Luxury ads reach beyond Town & Country set
To the Hamptons & horsey set read Entertainment Weekly and In Style magazine? Luxury brands are betting they do, stretching beyond advertising in core niche publications and calling more populist magazines home.
And why not? A booming economy, a bull market and Internet-driven IPO fever have boosted consumer confidence, which this January hit its highest level in 32 years,
More people with more money–a phenomenon Myra Stark, director of knowledge management and consumer insight at ad agency Saatchi & Saatchi, New York, refers to as “upscaling”–means more demand for luxury products, and consumer brands are eager to sate the desires of history’s first “mass upper class.” As a result, consumer magazines across the board are benefitting from healthy ad sales.
Mike Kelly, publisher of EW, says luxury companies are rethinking product design and marketing and ultimately turning to books like his to get younger, style-influencing consumers in the franchise.
“All the automotive companies have come out with models that appeal to younger consumers to get them into the showroom–Mercedes has its C Class,” Kelly says. “You want to advertise to someone who is one rung below your customer, someone with the potential of moving into that S Class.” EW’s median reader is age 31 with a household income of $50,000.
Meredith was one of the first to realize the potential among these advertisers. Six years ago, the magazine publisher began a division-wide initiative to drive sales in the luxury category.
Targeting the bellwether accounts–the Pradas, the Rolexes, the Mercedes–Meredith pitched its middle- to upper-class readership, and even created Traditional Home, Golf for Women and other titles that attracted readers with a median household income of $120,000, a figure rivaling that of readers of Vanity Fair, Architectural Digest and Gourmet. The point of difference: While Meredith’s reader was well-off, she was demographically distinct.
“We asked ourselves, ‘What is it we can bring to an upscale luxury marketer?'” says Deborah Jones Barrow, vp/publishing director for Traditional Home, Crayola Kids and a handful of other titles. “We reach a woman who’s an upscale suburbanite–suburban chic as opposed to urban chic. There are groups within that luxury group, and our voice reaches a reader that’s hard to reach. Overlaying it with Architectural Digest gives them a good geographical mix.”
The strategy has paid off: Meredith has grown its lux ad pages from 149 in 1994 to 413 in 1999. Revenue-wise, that’s an increase from $8.8 million to $38.4 million. Accounts include Jaguar, Cadillac, Chanel and DeBeers.
But this boon for less-upscale mags hasn’t come at the expense of traditional luxury titles. Architectural Digest’s Amy Churgin says her magazine’s ad pages are up 19 percent for first-quarter 2000, and that’s on top of last year’s 13 percent growth. And while Tiffany, Dior and Dom Perignon still grace her ad pages, she’s now getting non-traditional luxury advertisers, too–known more for style rather than a high price tag, including Pottery Barn, Volkswagen’s new Beetle and Target’s Michael Graves collection.
So long as the economy remains rosy, there’s room for both her magazines and Churgin’s, says Meredith’s Barrow. “Our POV is, it’s not an either/or, it’s just, ‘Don’t hit the same notes.'” –Becky Ebenkam