Ads That Know Your Name: Magazines Push Further Into Personalization

Harper's Bazaar Comes With Ad Suggesting Neiman Marcus Stores Near You

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Trying to answer the digital era's increasing demands for personalization, magazines are pushing further into ads that address readers individually.

The March issue of Harper's Bazaar, for example, arrived at 300,000 subscribers' homes accompanied by a full-page flier greeting subscribers by name and urging them to visit specific Neiman Marcus stores within 50 miles.

The flier -- an "outsert" in industry jargon -- follows an effort in Popular Mechanics' November issue, which included a personalized outsert promoting HP printers and a 16-page insert pointing readers to HP retailers near their homes.

Harper's customized outsert for Neiman Marcus.
Harper's customized outsert for Neiman Marcus.

Both Harper's Bazaar and Popular Mechanics are participating in Project Match, a collaboration between their parent company, Hearst, and HP, which has developed printing technology to enable faster, higher-quality personalized printing.

Other publishers are likely to follow. Time Inc.'s Targeted Media Inc. is now testing a similar program, putting personalized wraps on 2,000 copies of Fortune that are going to media buyers and marketers. It hopes to make the capability broadly available by mid-July.

"The digital universe has gotten us used to personalization," said Rob Reif, president of Targeted Media Inc. "This is just another way that it's manifested itself."

Luxury marketing is headed in the same direction, according to Connie Livsey, director-beauty and lifestyle at Harper's Bazaar. "A luxury customer wants to be first, wants to be treated special, wants everything customized, wants to be treated in a personal way," she said.

There are many ways marketers can personalize their magazine advertising, Ms. Livsey said. "One could do a separate outsert just for people where I have new stores," she said. "Or maybe I want one insert for [all] my biggest Lancome customers and another for [all] my biggest Estee Lauder customers."

Some of the momentum behind personalized ads came from a perhaps-unlikely source -- the Post Office, whose rising costs and reduced service are among magazines' big challenges.

Regulation changes last year let publishers mail outserts with magazines without triggering higher delivery rates, according to Michelle Weir, publishing market development manager for the Americas at HP Graphics Solutions Business.

The capabilities of personalization programs will continue to expand, Ms. Weir added. "One of the other things I think you'll see soon is the ability to do this across magazines," she said.

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