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Fighting a perception that it's adrift, Esquire is tilting its editorial focus more toward service journalism and launching its first ad campaign in three years.

The Hearst Magazines monthly is trying to focus advertisers on its affluent reader base and convince them there's still a need for a general-interest men's magazine.


Last year was a particularly rough one, with ad pages falling off steeply and rumors swirling about executive changes.

Hearst Magazines President Cathleen Black has stood behind Editor in Chief Edward Kosner, but did name a new publisher last year, bringing in longtime ally Val-erie Salembier.

The woes have continued into this year. January's 20.7 ad pages were down 26.4% from the same month last year. Ms. Salembier predicts a revival in ad sales will begin in the second quarter.

In a new memo to advertisers that's one component of a drive to change perceptions, Ms. Salembier argues the general-interest title has "never been more viable."

"It's all about branding," she said, "painting the face of the Esquire reader for advertisers."

That face will take the form of a print, outdoor and alternative media campaign from DeVito/Verdi, New York, with estimated billings of $1 million. The ads carry the tagline, "Esquire. The only intelligent men's magazine." One ad takes a direct swipe at Conde Nast Publications' men's monthly, noting Esquire is "Like GQ with a higher IQ."

The magazine also kicked off a 10-city road show for the ad community last week with a new promotional video.

Ms. Salembier, the title's fourth publisher in four years, has been making changes on the business side. She named Renee G. Lewin to the new post of associate publisher-marketing, from marketing director for Gruner & Jahr USA Publishing's McCall's and Family Circle. She has also boosted the marketing department from two people to eight, and added to the sales staffs in New York and Los Angeles.

"It's a great franchise. I just don't think it's been marketed very well," said Frank Smith, VP-group supervisor at Y&R Advertising.


While defending its image to advertisers, Esquire is also fine-tuning its editorial.

"There was criticism in the past that Esquire tried to be all things to all men," Mr. Kosner said. "We're sharpening the editorial focus to concentrate on our core audience of men 30 to 49 years old. We'll do more service, less celebrity."

Most observers think that means more sex and fitness coverage and fewer celebrity covers.

Esquire had 1,331 ad pages in 1989, but by last year its pages had tumbled to 608.72, down 21.1% from '95, while GQ saw ad pages jump 11.9% to 1,558.7. Rodale Press' Men's Health, meanwhile, saw ad pages jump 18.5% last year to 765.3, and

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