"People still want and need to feel good in difficult times," says Linda Wells, editor in chief of Conde Nast Publications' Allure. "Something as simple as caring about the way you look is an act of hope and pride."
"We're in a recession but it doesn't mean you don't put foundation on-it just may determine what foundation you use," says Felicia Ferber, VP-print group director at Grey Global Group's MediaCom, New York, which handles LVMH cosmetics brands.
"It's a category of small indulgences," adds Beth Brenner, publisher of Conde Nast's Self.
"For women with a beauty regime, these are non-discretionary purchases. [Money may be tight but] they'll still find a way to get those products," says Allure Publisher Nancy Berger. The title, which relies on the category for 70% of its ad mix, says it finished 2001 with an 18% increase over 2000 beauty pages.
And those small indulgences have helped magazines maintain beauty ad pages as many other categories slip away.
According to Publishers Information Bureau, toiletries and cosmetics ad spending increased 15% to more than $1.4 billion in 2001, making it No. 2, after automotive, among the 12 ad categories that PIB monitors. Pages for toiletries and cosmetics for 2001 were up 6.1% to 16,695.8, ranking it fifth in ad pages. Those 2001 increases in ad revenue and pages were tops in the 12 PIB categories.
Magazines are "crucial" when it comes to the ad mix for beauty campaigns, says Peter Gardiner, exec VP-director of media services at Interpublic Group of Cos.' Deutsch, New York, which handles Revlon.
Ms. Ferber agrees: "These products must run in magazines to get their message to the consumer."
New-product launches drive about half of all beauty advertising, and 2002 looks to be a launch-happy year. Ms. Berger estimates 60 new-product launches by yearend.
"Beauty launches happen every two to three weeks, which makes it so fertile," says Lynette Harrison, publisher of Time Inc.'s InStyle.
"People are being cautious, but there's a lot of excitement over new launches," says Eva Dillon, publisher of Fairchild Publications' Jane. Jane saw a 5% increase in beauty and cosmetic advertising for first quarter 2002 over the same 2001 period.
"It's not like women wake up one morning and say, `I'm going to buy cheap lipstick,' but if they're sacrificing things, they're sacrificing on the high end," Mr. Gardiner says.
The most visible blemish on the beauty scene is, as with many industries, on the retail front. Both magazines and advertisers are actively working on creative solutions to get customers into the stores.
"All programs right now encourage selling product and driving traffic to retailer," Ms. Berger says.
Harlan Schwarz, senior VP-director of strategic print services for Interpublic's Universal McCann, New York, which handles L'Oreal, says "the entire planning side is going to be more targeted and more efficient in terms of how I can turn a sale."
A great deal of that efficiency comes from added-value programs. Two creative solutions of note include CosmoGirl's Kiss of Approval, which Publisher Kristine Welker says "gave [advertisers] tools that would help them at retail," and InStyle's "partnership" with Revlon that gave both a presence at the Sundance Film Festival, which resulted in additional ad pages before and after the event.
"To stay on the schedule, the magazines have to be more creative," Ms. Ferber says.
Through 2002, the beauty and cosmetics category is expected to hold steady or possibly see slight growth. Although ad executives and publishers are rarely excited over flat projections, this year is definitely a special case. PIB reports that toiletries and cosmetics ad pages hit 537.3 in January, up 3.2% from a year earlier, as revenue climbed 9.4% to $52.5 million.
Over at CosmoGirl, beauty pages are up 9% for the first quarter, says Ms. Welker. Beauty and cosmetics makes up 45% of the ad mix at the Hearst Magazines title.
"It's still a shining category," says Allure's Ms. Berger.