MAGAZINES WILL FIGHT TO KEEP RX AD BOUNTY: PUBLISHERS FEAR SHIFT OF SPENDING TO TV UNDER RELAXED FDA REGS

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Fearing TV will siphon ad dollars from their hottest growth category, magazines are fighting to keep direct-to-consumer drug advertising from abandoning print.

In the wake of the Food & Drug Administration's relaxation of guidelines for broadcast advertising of prescription medications, titles like Newsweek, Reader's Digest, Parade and USA Weekend-all among the top 10 in DTC ad revenues-are developing presentations aimed at convincing pharmaceutical advertisers to continue devoting the lion's share of their spending to magazines.

MPA READIES RESPONSE

Magazine Publishers of America is also readying a response to the FDA's new guidelines.

DTC drug ads have fueled the latest magazine boom. According to Publishers Information Bureau figures, magazines carried 4,011 pages of prescription drug advertising in the first eight months of the year, up an eye-popping 51.7% from the same period in 1996.

"The category leaders, like us, Reader's Digest and People probably won't see too much of an impact on our pages," said Greg Osberg, Newsweek's VP-associate publisher. "Those that will suffer will most likely be the secondary and tertiary titles that benefited from huge budgets with nowhere else to go."

Newsweek, nonetheless, is going to fight to retain the business it has. A campaign targeted at drug companies will remind them why they chose magazines in the first place, Mr. Osberg said. Messages will focus on Newsweek's commitment to health-related editorial.

'BLASTING THE MARKETPLACE'

The marketing program, dubbed the NewsweekRx Partnership, will include print ads via Jerry & Ketchum, New York, breaking Sept. 22 in medical and ad trade magazines and newspapers, and a direct-mail campaign.

Reader's Digest also plans "to blast the marketplace" with the message that DTC prescription advertisers "need to be in" the magazine, said Greg Coleman, VP-U.S. magazines for Reader's Digest Association and publisher of the U.S. edition. The 15 million-circulation monthly commissioned a Roper Starch study of 1,804 Americans 18-plus earlier this year and is now using the results to bolster its sales message to DTC advertisers.

"Lucky for us, we are finding that the top-line results are showing that when it comes to information they can trust, consumers go to their doctors first, to Reader's Digest second and their pharmacists third," said Mr. Coleman.

SUNDAY MAGS TEAM

Sunday magazines Parade and USA Weekend are developing a joint presentation to take out to advertisers and agencies. Separately, Parade is running an ad in Med Ad News pitching itself as a strong companion buy to TV ads.

MPA's message to the FDA, likely to be filed jointly with the Newspaper Association of America, will note that print guidelines haven't yet been relaxed and that the new TV rules don't provide the same level of consumer protection. DTC drug ads in magazines are followed by one or more b&w pages with information on such things as side effects. Most magazines discount those pages heavily.

The new FDA guidelines allow TV ads to name the product and its purpose, while referring viewers to an 800-number, Web site, doctor and published sources for

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