Hearst Cleans Up in September

'Elle,' 'Marie Claire' soar, but with ad spending tight, outlook for fashion books is mixed.

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It looks like Hearst Magazines could end up dominating this year’s September ad-page contest. Last year, with the economy still shaky, most of the major fashion titles had gains in their most important issues of the year, but just barely. Now, with speculation about the 2012 numbers circulating, it could well be another mixed bag for fashion publishers.

Elle said it closed its September issue with 400 ad pages—a 14 percent increase over last year’s issue. Although Elle only became part of the Hearst fold last year, the company said Elle’s September would be the biggest issue in the company’s history. At 360 ad pages, Harper’s Bazaar rose 16.6 percent year over year, with most of its gains coming from the fashion category.

Marie Claire is also set to have its own record-breaking month. At 217 ad pages (237 including its @Work supplement), the September issue will be the magazine’s largest ever. The issue will include new high-end advertisers Chanel and Valentino ready-to-wear, which Hearst Magazines marketing president and publishing director Michael Clinton credited to fashion director Nina Garcia’s ongoing efforts to boost Marie Claire’s high-fashion cred.

Over at Condé Nast, W’s hot streak seems to have dissipated. Vp, publisher Nina Lawrence projected that September ad pages would be flat to slightly off from last September’s, which had 250 ad pages. She said that while jewelry was soft, the magazine saw solid growth in the fashion category and managed to add several new brands, including Donna Karan fragrance, Net-a-Porter and Brian Atwood. At GQ, September’s ad pages are up 5 percent to 204 versus last year’s issue.

Likely following Vogue’s lead in holding off on releasing any data until midweek, Condé Nast’s other fashion books weren’t forthcoming with paging estimates. That could have something to do with the not-so-optimistic outlook for September issues coming from the media rumor mill. Time Inc.’s InStyle said paging wasn’t ready to release.

With publishers and media buyers agreeing that the industry’s core ad categories of fashion and beauty were particularly strong, buyers cited a couple other factors that could be giving Hearst an edge over competitors. “Hearst has certainly tried to become more competitive with Condé Nast in terms of corporate deals, so they might have been able to leverage that, with the addition of the Hachette titles, to match up better against Condé offers,” said Dennis Santos, vp and group media director at PGR Media.

Carolyn Dubi, svp of print media at Initiative, pointed out that Condé’s abundance of titles could be working against it. “Sometimes it’s a benefit, but sometimes it’s a negative for them, as in this case, because it’s not like there’s a lot more dollars in the marketplace,” she said.

@adweekemma emma.bazilian@adweek.com Emma Bazilian is Adweek's features editor.