Wired Aims to Connect Gucci and the Geek

Magazine's New Publisher Goes for Glam Advertisers With 'New Lux' Strategy

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- You could always forgive the publishers of Wired magazine for not landing the Gucci account, that Sean John schedule or those Prada pages.

Wired is not like most Condé Nast glossies, after all, which usually come plump with fashion ads for fashionable people. Where GQ covers urge dressing to kill, promising "The One New Suit Every Man Needs," Wired covers say things like "Hackers Rule!" That lands ads for rechargeable batteries before Burberry every time.
All that glitters: Wired's 'brand book' emphasizes its new ad focus.
All that glitters: Wired's 'brand book' emphasizes its new ad focus.

But a few months ago Condé Nast replaced a departing Wired publisher with Chris Mitchell, a former Wired sales guy who had been publisher of Details since 2004. Now Mr. Mitchell wants to sell fashion and luxury marketers on a magazine that recently published a supplement called "Geekipedia."

The editors don't have to do anything differently, but the sales team needs to rearticulate the Wired mission, Mr. Mitchell said. "On my first week, I was saying to people, 'Less belt holster, more iPhone,'" he said. "That to me is, for better or worse, how I see the brand evolution."

Media buyers might even bite. It won't hurt that Wired households have higher median incomes than Esquire, GQ, Vogue, Harper's Bazaar or Elle homes, according to the latest Mediamark Research. A new "brand book" by the business side emphasizes Wired's focus on change, vision and "the new luxury."

A good fit?
Luxury advertising could work for Wired, said Eric Blankfein, senior VP-channel insights director at Horizon Media. "Why not?" he said. "We keep preaching about the consumer, so if the magazine's consumer's profile is consistent with certain brand categories, then those advertisers will find like-minded prospects. Remember when it was unheard of to advertise automobiles in women's magazines?"

The bigger question may be whether Wired readers want to see ads for belts, watches and exclusive fashions. They're used to seeing about half its ad pages -- which grew a slight 1.1% during the first half of this year, according to the Publishers Information Bureau -- come from endemic categories such as software, hardware, business-to-business and financial advertising. Another 20% come from automakers. This audience is definitely into DIY; it may or may not be into Dolce & Gabbana.

Any publisher will tell you how integral the ads are to the reading experience. All You magazine, which Time Inc. sells at Wal-Mart under a rubric of "Life with a reality check," turns away certain ads to maintain its mission, according to Diane Oshin, the publisher. "Reader feedback soon after we launched suggested that the rapid-weight-loss ads were unrealistic and did not fit with the edit in All You," she said. "The editor and I together made a policy decision at that point not to carry these ads ever again, walking away from significant ad revenue when we were still in launch mode."
Wired publisher Chris Mitchell
Wired publisher Chris Mitchell

Then there are more-extreme examples. The Nation got some 250 angry letters and had more than 50 subscriptions canceled after it ran an ad for Fox News on the back cover in 2003. Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly heard howls after running an ad for custom-tailored suits that, gasp, used sex to sell. The ad, in which a near-naked brunette tugs a man's necktie, would not stand out in a fashion magazine but was hardly what some readers wanted from a legal periodical.

The best fashion ads for Wired might acknowledge their context, said Gabe Medina, a training coordinator at JPMorgan Chase -- and a "fan" of Wired on Facebook. "Fashion would be outside of Wired's scope, since it reports on how technology affects culture, the economy and politics," Mr. Medina said. "Some readers may like it; others may not. If somehow the ads were tied to technology, I could see it having relevance."

Chris Anderson, editor in chief, said Wired's mission provides a fairly comprehensive prism on the human experience, including buying a suit or watch on occasion. Advertisers can target accordingly. "We'll continue to write as we always have," he said. "Some content will appeal to geeks, some who are cool, some who are geeky cool."
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