Most fashion magazines increased ad pages in their important March issues again this year, showing some strength in an uncertain economy.
Vogue's March issue includes 443 ad pages, nearly 4% above the year-ago level, the magazine said today. That's on top of a gain of 50 pages, or 13%, last March, according to Susan Plagemann, Vogue's VP-publisher since January 2010. "That's significant for us," Ms. Plagemann said. "We also beat our five-year average by 4.5%."
The ad-page count of the Conde Nast title will most likely beat any of its competitors, as Vogue has been selling the issue since last fall. "It's like every March for us," Ms. Plagemann said. "It's intense. We go at it early."
Vogue sibling W sold 204 ad pages into the issue -- 25% more than for last March -- including 20 from Saks Fifth Avenue to start its program around W's 40th anniversary later this year. The magazine is continuing to benefit from a 2010 redesign under Editor-in-Chief Stefano Tonchi, according to Nina Lawrence, VP-publisher at W. "Stefano Tonchi's W is a very big success," she said. "Our growth rate is accelerating."
Because marketers use them to introduce new looks, fashion magazines' March and September issues have long commanded extra attention from advertisers and readers. Media observers sometimes weigh September issues to get across just how many pages they carry. March is the next-most important issue.
"Fashion has become a much quicker industry, and most designers create at least four collections a year," Ms. Lawrence said. "But their major introductions tied to the runway shows are spring and fall, tied to March and September issues. If fashion depended on people waiting to buy the next round because their clothes wore out, it wouldn't be an industry. Spring is the introduction of the new season that ignites the engine for consumers to spend."
Advertisers sometimes respond to a soft economy by moving planned ad pages into March from surrounding issues, but that 's not the case at W, according to Ms. Lawrence. "March is up, but February was up and April will be up, so it's not like we sucked the pages out of other issues," she said. "Our March is not the exception. It's what we're doing right now."
Glamour, another Conde title, said its March issue will have 181 ad pages, over 5% more than last year. Expanding on the Social SnapTag program Glamour offered marketers in last September's issue, the magazine got 27 advertisers to include SnapTags with e-commerce capabilities.
Allure will have 143 ad pages in March, up 5% from its 20th anniversary issue a year earlier.
Elle magazine -- publishing its first March issue as a Hearst Magazines title -- is running 319 ad pages, 2% more than last March. Elsewhere at Hearst, Marie Claire said its March issue will carry 181 ad pages, up 31%. Cosmopolitan's 121 ad pages mark a 20% gain from a year ago, the magazine said.
Harper's Bazaar, whose redesign will be introduced in March, said ad pages in the issue are up 15.5% from last year, to 271.
Continued economic weakness has made business tougher for marketers and magazines stuck between economy and luxury, according to Carol Smith, VP-publisher and chief revenue officer at Harper's Bazaar since May.
"We needed to choose a direction, and the only one for a magazine and brand like Bazaar is to become a more luxurious experience," Ms. Smith said. "That isn't to say precious and unattainable but is to say that Vogue, Elle and InStyle can do battle in the mass arena. We will never win [there]. I love mass brands, so it's not that Bazaar isn't a wonderful home for Maybelline, but it's a wonderful home for Mercedes, too."
Time Inc.'s InStyle said it has sold 347 ad pages into its March issue, 13% more than last March, when it posted a 20% jump. "In this economic climate, advertisers remain confident in InStyle's ability to deliver," said Publisher Connie Anne Phillips.
People StyleWatch, another Time Inc. title, saw ad pages decline 7%, to 135, ending a 31-issue streak of year-over-year ad-page increases.