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FIRING UP THE 7 SISTERS GRUNER'S AGGRESSIVE MARKETING REP PUTS PRESSURE ON RIVALS

By Published on .

The acquisition of Family Circle and McCall's by Gruner & Jahr USA Publishing puts pressure on the other Seven Sisters to rev up their marketing engines.

Once Gruner & Jahr acquires and tunes up the flagship titles of The New York Times Co. Women's Magazines division, a hefty increase in advertising and promotion is expected to follow.

Gruner & Jahr officials said they won't divulge marketing plans before completing the purchase, expected later this month. But industry executives expect the publisher to stay true to form and do what The New York Times Co. rarely did: invest in marketing.

"I think Axel Ganz will try to turn up the heat any way he can," said Miami-based magazine consultant Robert A. Cohen, who has done work for Gruner & Jahr's Parents. He suspects Mr. Ganz, Gruner & Jahr's president of international publishing, will be "very aggressive with respect to his [direct mail] packages."

Mr. Cohen also believes the company will move the magazines beyond checkout counters with "lots of investment in new channels of sale. Maybe they'll go into Kmart stores and cross-promote with other merchandise."

Rivals are closely following the developments but playing it close to the vest regarding their own future marketing plans and budgets.

"I can't worry about things I can't control, I just look at my businesses," said Jerry Kaplan, publisher of Better Homes & Gardens, tied at No. 3 in ad pages in the category with Hearst Corp.'s Good Housekeeping. "We're not worried about it."

Currently, only Better Homes & Gardens and No. 5 Ladies' Home Journal parent Meredith Magazines is running a corporate ad campaign, from Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising, San Francisco.

In addition, mails 7,000 promotional pieces each month to media planners and clients.

Ladies' Home Journal has run consumer ads in People and is now running ads in the ad trade magazines to reach media buyers, handled by Lotas Minard Patton McIver, New York.

Hachette Filipacchi Magazines' No. 1 Woman's Day has been locked in a head-to-head battle with No. 2 Family Circle but has eschewed trade advertising in favor of point-of-purchase retail marketing.

Hearst Corp., parent to Good Housekeeping and No. 6 Redbook, has also taken a low-key approach, with no corporate advertising. But has been aggressively marketing its trademark Seal of Approval in consumer and trade print ads, and radio, through Jordan, McGrath, Case & Taylor, New York. Gruner & Jahr has already said it wants to lower the average reader age of both Family Circle and No. 7 McCall's. And those who know the company say Gruner & Jahr won't be afraid to spend marketing dollars to do that.

"G&J has the deep pockets and a willingness to spend," said Conde Nast Publications' Glamour Publisher Charles Townsend, president of the Times Co.'s women's division until last March.

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