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For the first time in 20 years, Modern Bride has inched past longtime category leader Bride's in ad pages.

And while only a few pages separate the two, the fact that K-III Communications is crowing about its title pulling ahead shows how fierce competition is in the highly lucrative bridal category.


Modern Bride and Bride's ranked second and third in ad pages, respectively, among all magazines ranked by Publishers Information Bureau for the first four months of 1997. Modern Bride carried 1,264 pages through April, a 9.1% increase over the same period last year, while Conde Nast Publications' Bride's saw ad pages rise 2.6% to 1,247.

As a new generation of young women prepares for a trip down the aisle, the bridal books are aggressively wooing new ad categories.

Modern Bride Publisher Nina Lawrence said her book's slight edge is due to an increase in business from core categories such as jewelry, housewares, tabletop and honeymoon, as well as an uptick in fashion advertising.


Bride's is looking past its endemic ad base to focus on non-traditional categories, particularly automotive, said Publisher Deborah Fine.

The June/July issue carries ads from Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Corp.'s Chevrolet division. The automakers bought schedules after seeing Bride's research showing more than half its readers plan to buy a car in the near future, Ms. Fine said.

Modern Bride, too, is approaching non-endemic advertisers with new research. Ms. Lawrence commissioned a Roper Starch Worldwide study to learn how brides-to-be feel about marriage, financial planning and future purchases.


"This is the most affluent group of brides ever to walk down the aisle, and they are forming affluent households," Ms. Lawrence said. "Forty-one percent have as high or higher incomes than their husbands-to-be."

Other findings of the study showed that 98% of respondents believe they will be the financial planners in the household, while 80% say they will continue to work after getting married and having children. The results will be marched in front of automakers and their agencies with the help of K-III's newly opened Detroit ad sales office.

Bride's new tagline, "Where love meets money," also bases its ad sell on the spending power of an engaged couple. The tagline is part of a new trade campaign, developed in-house.

"Our new slogan shows that we deliver this market . . . that represents $32 billion at retail annually," Ms. Fine said.

Bride's is funding a research project that will track engaged and married couples over several years to determine spending patterns.

Despite the research results, the magazines face an uphill battle with some new categories, such as financial services.

"The market right now is 70% male, 30% female in terms of who does the financial planning, so I probably wouldn't look all that seriously at the bridal books as a vehicle," said Art Neumann, media director, Foote, Cone & Belding, San Francisco, the agency for Janus Mutual Funds.

Bride's retains a slight edge in circulation. Its paid circulation rose 5% for the last half of 1996 to 387,799, while Modern Bride rose 2.4% to 366,837, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations. A third player, Bridal Guide,

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