Concerns, particularly for smaller companies, include magazine clutter, increased ad rates and policies concerning rotation of advertisers in prime space. And virtually all marketers worry about harried consumers, who have less spare time to pore over fashion and beauty books.
So marketers are being lured by outdoor advertising, the World Wide Web, database and direct marketing and unusual print buys as alternatives.
"People are tired of rates going up, of clutter, of rotation games," said Gerard Harris, CEO at Prism Marketing, New York, a consultancy to both magazines and marketers.
In the cosmetics and toiletries category, 1994 consumer magazine ad pages dropped 4.9% to 15,159,300 even though total ad pages among all categories increased 5.2% to 168,621,000, according to Publishers Information Bureau. In the first half of 1995, ad pages fell 2.6% to 7,911,000 from the year-ago period though revenues increased 2.6% to $483 million, a boost attributed to higher ad rates.
Apparel ad pages experienced a smaller drop of 0.7% to 15,041,000 in 1994. The first half was more upbeat, with ad pages up 9% to 8,067,000 though fashion advertisers continue to play with other media.
According to the Outdoor Advertising Association of America, apparel revenues in that medium soared 79% to more than $9 million in 1994, while cosmetics and toiletries climbed 97% to $3 million-plus. In the first quarter of this year, apparel revenue is up 48% to $2.2 million.
In 1988, Donna Karan Co.'s DKNY brand became one of the first high-fashion outdoor advertisers, prompting everyone from Tommy Hilfiger to Brooks Bros. to take a ride on the buses and boards.
Also, DKNY is experimenting with non-traditional media such as postcards in restaurants and a World Wide Web site on the Internet for Karan's beauty products that should be up and running by Thanksgiving, said Trey Laird, senior VP-advertising and creative services.
Jim Guthrie, VP-marketing development at the Magazine Publishers of America, shrugged off what he views as puttering: "Outdoor's revenues from cosmetics and apparel are still very small compared to print's revenues and pages."
Revlon, also said to be investigating a Web site, just began running 1- to 2-minute informational spots created by Tarlow Advertising, New York, on CNN.
Exec VP Kathy Dwyer acknowledged the series "gives us the opportunity to reach both new and existing consumers with our advertising message, using a newsy, original format."
Marketers also are increasing their use of database and direct marketing programs, said John Cummings, president of John Cummings & Partners, Armonk, N.Y.
The consultancy has tracked and monitored package-goods database marketing programs of more than 800 companies and 1,700 brands since 1991. Of the 10 most active package-goods product categories in database marketing, lotions/creams ranked sixth overall and fragrances ranked ninth.
To launch Princess Marcella Borghese's Cura Vitale Time-Defying Moisturizer, Halston Borghese North America is adding what are considered non-traditional magazines for a prestige beauty launch-Garden Design, Conde Nast Traveler, Bon Appetit and Gourmet.
The Borghese ads were created in-house, and will run in different formats, including a four-page insert on Italian living.
"What all of us are doing is struggling to find a way to get to our elusive consumer," said President Sherry Baker.
For its men's fragrances, Lancaster Group is using alternative print, such as Car & Driver and Road & Track, and is also advertising its new Nightflight scent on the Internet as part of a Web site that is a restaurant and entertainment guide to New York and Los Angeles.
Robert Geller, president of media consultancy Robert Geller & Associates, New York, argued, however, that "Print has a shelf life. I don't see a huge transfer from traditional to non-traditional. I see some experimentation."
Hearst Magazines Group Publisher Ann Sutherland Fuchs agreed. "We don't think alternative media for fashion advertising will replace print," Ms. Fuchs said. "We are starting Web sites for some of our magazines with Esquire already online. And we are developing a CD-ROM for House Beautiful. Interactive will augment and expand the magazine's base, not decrease."
Laura Loro contributed to this story.