Advertisers Keep It Real With ‘Marie Claire’

Everyday working women from magazine's LinkedIn network replace models

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Flip through the advertisements in any fashion magazine, and it won’t take long to notice a defining feature among the women shilling for lipsticks or shoes: They’re all stunningly beautiful, very famous, or both. But so-called “real women” have been slowly entering the territory of the professionally glamorous as brands attempt to relate to the woman who is more concerned with balancing her checkbook than maintaining a size zero.

Hearst Magazines’ Marie Claire is jumping on this trend with the May issue of Marie Claire@Work, its new, thrice-yearly supplement for working women that’s sent to subscribers in the top 10 markets. In addition, 100,000 newsstand copies are distributed. The May supplement will include ad campaigns from Buick, White House Black Market and Mustela featuring women from the Marie Claire Career Network on LinkedIn.

When the network launched last fall, the magazine saw it as a way to connect with women across industries. Soon, Marie Claire realized that the group also had marketing potential. “When we saw the responsiveness of this audience and how very eager they were to share their own personal insights, we realized that this could help build advertising content as well,” recalled Nancy Cardone, vp, publisher and chief revenue officer of Marie Claire. “We already knew that we had women who were prescreened as professionals. If you can find the right real women, it’s impactful.”

For its @Work ad, Mustela pulled quotes about balancing motherhood and work directly from the message boards, while Buick and WHBM found women in the LinkedIn network whose stories jibed with their brands’ messages.

Buick, whose ad features career women involved in charities, has run similar campaigns in Condé Nast’s Architectural Digest and Vanity Fair highlighting actual philanthropists. The brand once famous for having Tiger Woods as its spokesman found that casting real people resonated more with consumers in a tough economy.

“We went this route during the beginning of the recession, when people were starting to reexamine how they were spending money and what was really important to them,” said Michele Zeiss, assistant advertising manager for General Motors. “We’re about being approachable, so we’re looking for real people that the readers can identify with and not so much the celebrity who makes millions of dollars.”

Zeiss sees the trend continuing. “Between unemployment and other things that are happening in the real world, consumers are still looking for real people to give them examples of how to survive in this economy,” she said.

@adweekemma Emma Bazilian is Adweek's features editor.