FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AdAge.com) -- Men's personal care has accelerated enough that backers of women's beauty site TotalBeauty.com are joining forces with men's online publisher Break Media to create a site designed to attract the growing ad dollars from the space.
But men haven't yet reached the point that they're willing to knowingly visit a site about grooming, the two companies believe. So when the joint venture, ModernMan.com, launches later this year it will deal with the subject matter obliquely, styling itself as a broader lifestyle site aimed at giving men an edge at work and play.
TotalBeauty, which in two-plus years of collecting user reviews of thousands of women's beauty products has grown to 2.5 million monthly unique visitors, according to Compete.com., and has seen growing requests from women for information about men's grooming products, said Emrah Kovacoglu, CEO of Total Beauty Media.
That untapped market
Meanwhile, Break Media, which reaches a combined 27 million men monthly via various humor and lifestyle sites per Compete, has seen growing search and readership of content about men's personal-care products, said CEO Keith Richman. Last year it launched MadeMan.com, positioned as more aspirational take on the men's space.
So when Mr. Kovacoglu approached his friend Mr. Richman about a collaboration last year, they quickly found common ground.
"We're pretty good at reaching men," Mr. Richman said, "but there are segments we aren't reaching. Our research showed this growing market segment of men who wanted to improve themselves but couldn't find a site they identified with."
Though it's getting growing interest from marketers, men's personal care is far from infancy. Mr. Kovacoglu estimates that in all channels, including prestige, the U.S. men's market has $5 billion in sales and more than $900 million in ad spending.
ModernMan expects to sign an exclusive deal with one of the major men's players -- most likely Procter & Gamble Co. or Unilever -- for all advertising its first year, he said. Total Beauty already has an extensive relationship with P&G women's brands, while Break has an extensive relationship with Unilever's Axe. Mr. Kovacoglu gives Axe credit for setting the stage for recent growth in mass men's grooming. "Axe didn't tout benefits at all," he said. "It started with teens and college-age, and the idea was, 'Hey, if I use this product, I'm going to have a competitive edge with women.' That was eight years ago, and those guys are now in their 20s and 30s."
The insecure factor
Also driving the business, he said, is growing insecurity among men. "In our focus groups, we found this tremendous tension men now have," he said. "They feel overwhelmed about a lot of things." Among them, men's unemployment rates have risen faster than women's as the recession has hit disproportionately male occupations such as construction and manufacturing particularly hard.
"While people say a woman is expected to do it all," Mr. Kovacoglu said, "that's been the case for decades. But men are also expected to be good at a lot of things these days, and that's fairly new. Before, as long as you were good at your career, you didn't have to be good at anything else. [Now] men understand that looking good is part of that competitive edge at work or with women. And they're looking for a playbook on how to have that competitive edge."
He expects ModernMan to serve as that playbook. "It's a matter of how do you tuck [information about men's grooming] into other content they may be seeking more actively?" he said.
Other sites associated with print titles also ply the space, but Mr. Kovacoglu said all are more limited than ModernMan will be. He points to Esquire (which he termed "too upscale"), GQ ("too metrosexual"), Maxim ("too much trouble if your wife or girlfriend catches you reading it"), and Men's Health ("too focused on health and fitness").
Mr. Kovacoglu said ModernMan also will be different from another Break offering, lifestyle site MadeMan.com, which has risen to around 500,000 monthly unique visitors since its launch last year. MadeMan is for guys who want to "live large" vs. ModernMan, which he said is for average guys seeking a competitive edge. The upper range of the target demographic for ModernMan is also older than for MadeMan, he said.
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