Magazines stretch all limits to stay relevant to readers

Publishers' ad space goes from car doors to sponsored departments

By Published on .

Cling-wrapped cars, concierge-service, satellite-radio fare and oodles of mobile-delivered material-magazines are falling over themselves waving their mastheads like red capes in front of the modern male.

Sports Illustrated, which saw its Web ads grow 100% year-over-year (prints ads were up 3.6%), is offering advertising opportunities tied to its new fantasy-sports offering, VCast-enabled cellular phones, iTunes video downloads, TV programming and its Web site, says Jeff Price, president of SI Digital.

"We're evolving from having the best sports magazine in the country to being a leading content producer that's platform-agnostic," says Mr. Price. "While the experience with the magazine is important, there was another 48 hours a week that we could be engaging these guys."

Subaru of America recently ran an extensive campaign with Rodale's fledgling men's magazine Best Life. The car company was the category-exclusive sponsor of the Vail Film Festival, supplying a fleet of Subaru shuttle cars-cling-wrapped and sponsoring a mobile roving billboard that drove around the Colorado town. Subaru, which has a male customer base of just over 50%, also bought print ads in the magazine. The combination, says Rick Crosson, Subaru's VP-marketing, is a preferred way of getting in front of its potential audience. It is planning another winter event with Rodale's Men's Health in 2007.

"It was a good fit for the active, adventure-loving and culturally aware Subaru customer," says Mr. Crosson. "We will definitely seek out similar opportunities in the future, as we believe that this type of interactive branding experience ultimately helps us sell vehicles."

While the men's magazine market has shrunk as of late, ad revenues at some books are up this year as more advertisers seek options outside the printed page. And those options abound, say publishers.

swinging the clubs

Dennis Publishing's Stuff is offering sponsored events-the company helped athletic brand Puma AG launch its golf line with a party at the Miami Beach (Fla.) Golf Club.

But there are other options, too, such as a recently launched travel concierge service called StuffVIPTravel in partnership with Key2Travel, adding yet another venue for advertisers. This lets marketers like Southern Comfort Co. align their brand with a location, says Publisher John Lumpkin. "Anytime a reader goes to anything [online] related to New Orleans it will be branded Southern Comfort," he says. The magazine's mobile concierge service, which allows readers to use their handsets to get restaurant reviews and reservations, extends this branding opportunity, he says.

Sibling Maxim is even getting into radio, launching its own channel on Sirius Satellite Radio. This adds to the magazine's ad options, including nightclub evenings, mobile device content, branded microsites on, the Maxim Living line through Macy's and instant couponing.

"All the big brands want multiplatform solutions, so we are putting print together with online ... with mobile ... with events ... with branded entertainment on a TV show," says Robert F. Gregory, group publisher. "That's really the future for us. Put Maxim everywhere people go."

Men's Health, which this month relaunched its Web site, is now organized by department, says Publisher Jack Essig. Everything can be sponsored, especially an increasing amount of video content. The magazine also sells event sponsorship, says Mr. Essig.

One expert says the fact that so many magazines are offering-and so many advertisers are taking advantage of-nontraditional opportunities doesn't mean the print ad is less appealing or falling out of favor.

"Truth be told, men are harder to reach than women in print," says Brendan Hoey, print supervisor at Omnicom Group's OMD. "Advertisers are just trying to find new ways to keep them involved, but I don't think they are walking away from the pages or weaning them off. They are simply expanding the reality."

custom ad offerings

While the lure of additional ad dollars is strong, some publishers are focusing more attention on differentiating their in-book offerings. Wenner Media's Men's Journal recently created a custom ad for DaimlerChrysler's Jeep that mirrored the magazine's editorial content. The ad, which was for Jeep's new diesel offering, featured several itineraries of one-tank trips.

The June issue has a similar 10-page treatment for Beefeater gin, says Will Schenck, the magazine's publisher. "We don't call it advertorial, which is just running a brand ad and some worthless drivel. We go to the advertisers and say, 'You give us a message and then we translate it into value and importance.' "

Men's Health is adding new editorial coverage to help spur more ad buys, says Mr. Essig. The magazine is offering a tech "flip guide"-an issue that features a separate technology-centric supplement that sits reverse and upside down from the rest of the magazine.

Men's Health also focuses on awards-grooming and nutrition will be joined by technology awards early next year-to appeal to a wider group of advertisers. "What this does for us is gives us pure ownership of a category," says Mr. Essig. ""It also offers additional marketing opportunities for manufacturers to put our awards on their packaging."

Still, with all its innovation, Barbara Borg, OMD's group director of print, says the men's category isn't that much different than the rest of the publishing world.

"It's a tough marketplace, and not just for the men's books," she says. "Everyone is trying to come up with unique ways to reach readers and offer more to advertisers. This is not unique to the men's category."
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