Conde Nast deal with Audi advances share-grab agenda

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Advance Publications and Audi of America are near a deal to land the lion's share of the carmaker's print budget at the magazine giant's consumer titles, said several executives familiar with the matter.

Advance, which owns Conde Nast Publications, Fairchild Publications, and The Golf Digest Cos., is aggressively pressing a market share strategy that cuts other publishing companies out of the budget, said media buyers and Advance insiders.

The strategy is credited to Richard Beckman, Conde Nast's chief marketing officer, appointed in January 2002.

The Audi deal, should it come to fruition, will be worth about $12 million, according to an Advance competitor.

An Audi spokeswoman said the Advance print deal is for all models this year, and that the company would also advertise in auto enthusiast, business and "diversity" titles. The A8, Audi's smallest volume seller, is expected to get a non-Advance sponsored ride and drive tour. Audi spent $17 million in print for the first 11 months of 2002, per Taylor Nelson Sofres' CMR.

"Conde Nast is definitely being more aggressive with corporate offers," said John Frierson, a partner in Ziccardi Partners Frierson Mee, which buys for the designer Ellen Tracy. Mr. Beckman "wants market share. It's his whole mantra." Another media buyer spoke of "deals to exclude some major competitors," like Hearst Magazines and Time Inc.'s beauty-and-fashion heavy In Style.

Mr. Beckman declined to comment on the Audi deal and demurred on all questions about attempts to gain share.

"Our objective is to ensure the inclusion of as many of our titles [in marketing plans] as possible. How the client accommodates that desire is entirely their prerogative," Mr. Beckman said. He insisted corporate discounts "have, will, and continue to be based on volume."

But an Advance insider said Mr. Beckman's predecessors "didn't approach the business this way-by looking to amass all of someone's ad dollars at Conde Nast."

Despite the obvious advantages of dominating the market, the effect thus far on the bottom line is uncertain. For full-year 2002, Conde Nast's ad pages fell 8.3%, the largest drop of the five largest magazine companies.

An earlier effort by Time Inc. to aim for market share, under the name "Max Plan," was abandoned in the early `90s, said executives there. And marketers and media buyers show some signs of resistance towards putting all of their pages with one publisher.

Still, last year Advance and Time Inc. split the vast majority of Citigroup's "Live richly" print campaign. That deal, which will run for over a year, involved 17 Advance titles, and over 300 ad pages and $15 million to $20 million in revenue.

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