With Rouge, Procter & Gamble Is the Latest Print-Media Owner

Custom-Published Rouge Has 11 Mil Circulation; Capitalizes on Database

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BATAVIA, Ohio (AdAge.com) -- Procter & Gamble Co. may be down to its last soap opera, but its launch of quarterly beauty magazine Rouge into the U.S. shows it's far from out of the media business.

ROUGE: P&G's custom publication
ROUGE: P&G's custom publication
P&G and CBS earlier this month pulled the plug on "Guiding Light," which had a 72-year run on radio and TV at the same time P&G was rolling out Rouge, a custom-published magazine that has been in Canada for four years but is now moving to the U.S., gaining an additional 6 million to 7 million U.S. homes in the process. Adding the U.S. brings circulation for the P&G title, produced by Redwood Custom Communications' Javelin unit, to a whopping 11 million households by next year. That's nearly double the 6.4 million combined average paid circulation of Allure, Glamour and Cosmopolitan, according Audit Bureau of Circulations figures for the first half of 2009. And that's not, of course, counting the reach of its website, rougemag.com.

If U.S. distribution of Rouge were eventually to reach the same household penetration rate as Canada, it would hit around 18 million.

P&G surely isn't the only marketer-and-media owner out there, as companies such as Kraft, Walmart and myriad others have also gone that route. But as P&G is unquestionably the biggest advertiser in the U.S., the fact that it is taking print into its own hands can't come as welcome news for beauty magazines relying on their share of its $4.8 billion in ad dollars during this ugly economic environment.

P&G Productions still produces "As the World Turns" for CBS and has a number of other media initiatives under way. Last month, its biggest brand, Pampers, which boasts a website with 1.5 million unique monthly visitors in the U.S. per TNS Compete, used P&G Productions to create a series of webisodes about an expectant couple -- albeit without as much drama as the Gosselin family.

The P&G universe of web media/customer relationship marketing programs also includes BeingGirl.com, which targets teen girls for Always, Tampax and occasionally other P&G brands, as well as HomeMadeSimple.com, which includes a spun-off TV show on TLC.

Print will survive
It's not clear Rouge spells anything like a death knell for P&G spending on other magazines. That's one medium, along with digital, that's seen steady or increased spending in recent quarters as P&G has slashed its TV spending amid declining U.S. sales.

But owned media -- be it print, digital or other -- is still a concern as P&G amps up its share of sales from e-commerce, either on its own sites or those of outside e-tailers, where it can hope to spur impulse sales through its own offerings.

Rouge, laden with coupons, gives P&G a new vehicle for distributing them at a time when Sunday newspaper distribution, and the coupon inserts that go with it, keeps declining. Much of the social-media support for Rouge from mommy-bloggers has come from mentions of the coupons.

P&G also has shown a growing interest in capitalizing on the consumer databases it's been developing almost since the dawn of the web browser in the mid 1990s. For some of its distribution, it's tapping databases of its own beauty sites, such as Olay.com and Pantene.com -- something a change in the company's online-privacy policy last year paved the way for.

The company also recently hired Accenture Marketing Science to work across its vast array of web and e-commerce properties, in part to help optimize content on its websites for greater impact on sales.

The company long ago discovered its own media can be very powerful. In his recently released book "Marketing With Meaning," current Bridge Worldwide Chief Marketing Strategist and former Mr. Clean brand manager Bob Gilbreath notes that Mr. Clean Magic Eraser was already flying off shelves, and production capacity already had to be tripled in 2003 months before its media campaign started, with the only real marketing support being 1 million free samples distributed to people who opted in via P&G's own HomeMadeSimple program, then with 6 million opt-in subscribers.

All of this is an outgrowth of what P&G calls "scale marketing," using its girth as one of the biggest marketers on earth to its advantage. And as P&G increasingly organizes its business around consumer cohorts rather than just brands, such efforts make more sense.

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Contributing: Nat Ives

Marketers as media owners

Besides P&G, many other marketers are expanding their roles. Among them:

Walmart: Its in-store TV network and "All You" magazine are owned by outside parties, but it increasingly is selling all kinds of other media, including banners on its websites and displays in its stores. Walmart recently began running trade ads aimed at suppliers for its Shopper Events program, citing a cost of $200 per store for a solo brand and up to $240 per store for three brands. The giant retailer has become a de facto agency, or at least media-budget receptacle, for many of its suppliers via a growing number of co-op ads under the "Save Money. Live Better" campaign.

Kraft Foods: Kraft has published its custom "Food & Family" magazine for more than five years, with recipes, coupons and more.

Unilever: Unilever has long had a multibrand-relationship program, originally Home Basics, more recently Making Life Better, that's lived both online and at times via custom-published magazines. It also has similar programs in Europe. Publicis Groupe recently acquired Unilever's French Pour Tout Vous Dire customer-relationship program, complete with online and print publications that reaches 5 million households.

Michelin: The Michelin Travel Guides series dates back to 1900, making it perhaps the oldest marketer-owned medium.

Hallmark Channel: The Hallmark cable networks, an outgrowth of the Hallmark Hall of Fame TV productions, are now owned by Crown Media, in which Hallmark is an owner along with Discovery

Clorox Co.: The household products makers' Clorox Diamond Productions has backed numerous TV specials over the years.

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