ADVANCE, CONDE NAST ROMANCE GM

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General Motors Corp. advertising honcho Phil Guarascio flew to New York last week to huddle with top executives of Conde Nast and its parent, Advance Publications, at a pre-Christmas power lunch.

To some observers, it was the final peace summit in GM's $30 million ad package scheduled for S.I. Newhouse Jr.-owned magazines in '95.

Conde Nast Publications President Steve Florio, who hosted the Dec. 11 gathering at Il Mulino restaurant in Greenwich Village, insisted the gathering was "social-a meeting of the Italian Marching & Chowder Club."

The only person not of Italian extraction at the gathering was Mr. Newhouse, chairman of Advance and Conde Nast. His presence indicated the care Conde Nast is giving to the courtship of GM and Mr. Guarascio, VP and general manager-marketing and advertising for GM's North Amer-ican Operations.

"The pasta was great," Mr. Guarascio said of the lunch. He declined to comment further.

In '94, depressed cosmetics advertising industrywide stung many of the Conde Nast fashion/beauty books with ad page losses. New revenues from the giant automaker will be a soothing balm for '95.

Other executives from the Newhouse empire at the lunch: Vogue Publisher Ron Galotti, Parade Publisher Carlo Vittorini and New Yorker President Tom Florio.

In the past, GM withheld ads from Conde Nast titles because of Conde Nast's refusal to go off published rate cards. In '94, auto advertising in magazines is booming industrywide with a rise in pages to 2,397.8, up 14.4% compared to a year ago.

But GM spending at Newhouse titles is flat with only 153 ad pages, valued at $15 million, through November, according to Competitive Media Reporting. (In '93, GM spent $17.6 million with Mr. Newhouse's properties.) Most of GM's '94 spending is concentrated in the two non-Conde Nast Advance titles: The New Yorker (56.1 pages, $2.5 million) and Parade (14 pages, $8.5 million).

How many pages Conde Nast will get from GM next year is still open to debate. Early estimates were 500 pages. Insiders now say that number may be too high. Whatever the total, it will put GM among Conde Nast's top two or three clients.

One of the reasons for GM's new interest is an offer to use the highly prized database of 11 million names compiled by the magazines and Random House, a Newhouse-owned book publisher. In addition to typical subscriber names and addresses, the list includes valuable demographic information. Chrysler and Ford both have tapped the database in the past for direct mail efforts.

As part of the secret deal, no one magazine will automatically receive the pages. Each publisher still must pitch GM separately and convince the automaker on the merits of each title.

And GM is receiving the volume discounts-believed to be about 40% off the one-time rate-based solely on their verbal commitments.

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