MAGAZINE DRUG ADS FALL 20% IN 1ST QTR.

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Providing the first quantitative proof that marketers of prescription drugs are shifting money from magazines to TV in the wake of relaxed rules, ad pages in the drug category fell sharply in the first quarter.

Marketers of medicines and proprietary remedies bought 818.5 ad pages in magazines in the January-March period, a decline of 20.1% from the same period in 1997, according to Publishers Information Bureau. That follows the Food & Drug Administration's ruling last year that made it easier for marketers of prescription drugs to directly target consumers via TV.

`NOT UNEXPECTED'

The drop "was not unexpected," said Donald Kummerfeld, president of Magazine Publishers of America. "We anticipated the reductions."

Pages were also down in two other key categories. Automotive, the biggest-spending category, was down 5.1% to 1,911.9 pages, while computer and software, the No. 3 category, saw pages drop 17.4% to 1,170.2

Overall, ad pages grew just 1.5% for the quarter, according to PIB, reaching 52,351.56.

"For the upcoming second quarter, everybody is holding their breath," Mr. Kummerfeld said. "We expected '98 increases would be more modest than '97 increases given the great growth in '97. We may be pleasantly surprised, because there is good growth going on."

DIRECT RESPONSE UP 12.1%

Ad pages from direct-response marketers, the second biggest spenders, increased by 12.1% to 2,370.5. The fifth-largest category, public transportation, hotels and resorts, posted a 1.5% jump to 1,354.6 pages.

Steve Florio, president-CEO of Conde Nast Publications, saw softness in some categories but said his company had a strong first quarter, up 7.8% in pages.

"Automotive is soft. Chrysler and General Motors have cut back, but Ford has taken up the slack nicely. They are having a very good year in magazines," he said. "Retail is a bit soft and that backs up into the fashion category. Beauty is not what we thought, with Estee Lauder rethinking how they are using magazines . . . but L'Oreal and Revlon . . . are spending."

PIB this month unveiled a new classification system for ad categories. Nearly two years ago, MPA and Competitive Media Reporting began developing the new system to allow better cross-media comparisons of brand and category spending.

"We're now using category data that are more relevant to the other media," said Mr. Kummerfeld.

57 CATEGORIES

The old classification system contained 33 industry level categories; the new system will list 57.

An MPA spokeswoman said the margin of error for comparisons between page and dollar counts in old categories and new ones is 2 percentage points, and that using the restated categories should have little impact on year-to-year comparisons. CMR has restated all data in the new categories for the past 10 years so historical trends and comparisons are valid.

The women's service category, which as a group represents some of the largest-circulation titles, experienced mixed results in the first quarter. Meredith Corp.'s Better Homes & Gardens, the largest, was off 7% in ad pages to 388, while sister publication Ladies' Home Journal was up 16% to 347.8. Gruner & Jahr USA Publishing's two titles were both up -- Family Circle by 35.9% to 345.8, and McCall's by 14.1% to 241.1.

Both also saw double-digit percentage gains in the drugs and remedies category, said Andreas Wiehle, chief operating officer, Gruner & Jahr.

HEARST UP AND DOWN

Hearst Magazines' Good Housekeeping was up 4.3% to 274.5 pages, while sibling Redbook fell 6.5% to 219.1. Hachette Filipacchi Magazines' Woman's Day was down 14.6% to 338.4 pages. Hachette Chief Operating Officer John Fennell attributed the softness to a drop in drugs and remedies, but said gains in direct response were offsetting some of those declines.

Time fared best in the newsweekly field, up 8.9% to 569.3 ad pages and getting a boost from its 75th anniversary special issue. Newsweek was down 3.2% to 513.4 pages, while U.S. News & World Report was flat at 453.9.

Sunday magazines as a category were down 3.3% in ad pages to 1,133.55. Parade was down 13.2% to 155.86, while USA Weekend was down 9.6% to 154.33. Both were affected by direct-to-consumer drug ads moving to TV.

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