Women's magazines embrace simplicity

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Magazine marketers seeking the millennium woman are finding the answer is simple.

The 2000 debut of start-ups in the magazine, Internet and retail world such as Pretty Pretty, Real Simple, SimplyCity and SimplyShe are back-to-basic and focused on streamlined ideas and products to simplify a complex life.

Pretty Pretty offers a line of pared-down, multifunctional cosmetics while SimplyShe provides content-based products such as greeting cards. The company's first offering is the HerSpeak greeting card series, which aims to simplify communication using a stylish means of keeping in touch with friends and family. The card options include categories such as motherhood, dating and crisis management.

STAYING IN TOUCH

"All women want to stay in touch and connected with one another, and I was inspired by my own everyday life experiences to find an innovative way to do so," said Maria Peevey, president and founder of SimplyShe. HerSpeak cards are sold in 200 stores nationwide, including Henri Bendel, Fred Segal, Tracy Ross and Papyrus, as well as online.

The move to simplification comes as women deal with the complexity of roles -- mother, sister, friend, co-worker, boss -- a lack of time, an information overload and a society that moves on Internet time. "With all the choices available to us now, simplification is not a momentary trend or blip, but the reality of modern life for women now," said Real Simple Publisher Alexander Sareyan.

Time Inc.'s Real Simple carries stories with such headlines as "Easy entertaining" and "An orderly kitchen" in its November issue. The magazine boasts 700,000 rate base subscribers. "Ours is a very wide demographic," Ms. Sareyan said, "time-pressed professional women who are balancing a lot of different roles. Topically, Real Simple is very broad, so diverse advertisers have followed. Many categories in the advertising world make perfect sense in the mindset of streamlining women's lives."

Apple Computer, Mercedes-Benz USA, Estee Lauder Cos., Kraft Foods, Prudential Insurance Co. of America, MasterCard International, Saks Fifth Avenue and Levi Strauss & Co.'s Dockers are among Real Simple's advertisers. One ad for Saks lists the various roles a woman plays: wife, mother, diva, peacemaker, troop leader, yoga freak, techno-geek, crusader, stock trader -- before saying that Saks' easy-fitting clothing line fits all the definitions. Another, for Dockers, reads, "Wouldn't it be nice if we could all live like children? No calendars, no meetings, no bills."

"The research that Time Inc. did before the launch showed that the idea of simplifying life is on the forefront of people's minds, and Real Simple responds to that through a sense of community and a blend of diverse examples," Mr. Sareyan said.

SEEKING BALANCE

SimplyCity is another magazine that offers to ease a busy woman's life. "Magazines are a vehicle to communicate a new awareness of the concerns of professional women to balance their lives," said Danielle Chang, SimplyCity's founder, publisher and editorial director. "We're taking the concept of simplicity as a state of mind -- it's about simplifying a clear mission statement for your lifestyle and seeking happiness." SimplyCity has a circulation of 100,000 and advertisers such as Perrier Group of America and MaxStudio.com.

Lynn Heiler, publisher of Bon Appetit, said marketers, such as those in the automotive and financial area, want to be associated with Bon Appetit's objective of "simplifying and streamlining people's lives."

"It's a reflection of how women want to be communicated with now," Ms. Heiler said. "Women make all kinds of decisions. [Futurist] Faith Popcorn said that a woman can be dressed in an Armani suit and be driving her kids through Taco Bell."

Even established magazines such as Conde Nast Publications' Self are revamping their looks and approaches based on how women relate to the world around them. In a study conducted this summer by Applied Research & Consulting, Self asked a national sample of 800 women, ages 18 to 49, about how they thought "marketers address them in relation to their time-pressed lives."

The findings: Female respondents said that "in order to talk to a woman, marketers must address her in relation to all her various roles -- as a mother, a sister, an executive, a wife, a friend. . . ."

The millennium woman doesn't exist apart from or only as one of these roles; instead, "she resides at the `center' of her world and these relationships are what define her," the study found.

In response to these results, Self has adopted a new tagline, "Centered on you," to better relate to its female audience.

Web sites also are centered on appealing to a woman's need for simplicity. Women.com Networks and Oxygen Media's O2simple.com, rank among the many that target the busy woman.

NO DEFINITIONS

Women.com's advertising, created by Citron Haligman Bedecarre, San Francisco, showcases a diverse group of females reciting general statistics about women, based on surveys conducted on its Internet site. The ads originated from the fact that women aren't looking for someone to define them. "In the '50s, it was the housewife performing her duties in pumps and pearls; in the '80s, it was the power-suited superwoman; in the '90s, it became the soccer mom," said DeeAnn Budney, VP-associate creative director at Citron Haligman.

But in the year 2000, there is no catchall category to define today's woman, numerous marketing experts said. Ad agencies such as Gotham, New York, have tapped into the idea of balance to market successfully to women. The many roles that females play makes it difficult to market to any one specific group, said Stone Roberts, chairman-CEO of Gotham. "The solution lies in being flexible and accepting of that lifestyle," he said. "Simplicity is a big driver."

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