The industry recorded a 2.1% increase to 53,805.09 ad pages for January through March compared with the same period last year, according to the latest figures released by Publishers Information Bureau.
Automotive, off 4.4% for the quarter to 4,926.11 pages, gained ground in March with a 6.2% increase to offset an 11% decline in January and February.
"Automotive is back in a really strong way," said Christine Miller, VP-marketing at Magazine Publishers of America.
GM SPENDING IN MARCH
March growth, in large part, is attributable to General Motors Corp. spending, she said, noting, "GM is back in business with new product lines and new marketing strategies. They've been through a lot, with the decision to change to a brand management system, weathering the strike and absorbing their dealers. But now they are in a position to focus on marketing."
Two other categories driving business in the first quarter were technology and drugs/remedies. Technology, up 1.1% in ad pages to 5,033, recorded the second-highest total of ad pages of any category for the first three months. Direct-response marketers bought 6,368 ad pages, a 2.5% decline from last year but still the highest of any category.
The drugs and remedies category was up 16.6% to 2,714 ad pages. "Those numbers reflect a partial return to using print more strongly for that category after its segue into TV," Ms. Miller said.
The toiletries and cosmetics category was off 10.8% to 2,937 pages.
Food and food products was off 15.1% to 1,938 ad pages, affecting women's service titles the most.
Time Inc. led the publishing companies with the most ad pages: 6,296.09, a 6% increase over first-quarter 1998. Conde Nast Publications maintained its No. 2 position but was off 1.3% to 5,691.01 pages. Hachette Filipacchi Magazines, with 4,524.44 ad pages, was up 1.2% and held the No. 3 spot.
"We've had five or six very strong years, and even though this first quarter is the smallest [quarter in terms of growth in that time], we're still off to a great start," said Dave Long, Time Inc. president of media sales and marketing, noting the company gained a full percentage point in PIB share of revenue.
Conde Nast was hit hard by declines in beauty advertising. Exec VP Catherine Viscardi Johnston reported a 20% decline in beauty advertising for the first quarter. However, gains in the financial, technology, fashion and import auto categories offset most losses.
"The first half was not great for us, and I expect we may be off in the 1% to 3% range," she said. "But I believe in the second half we will make that up and at least be even. Considering the gain we had last year, that will make me very happy."
Hearst Magazines VP-Chief Marketing Officer Michael Clinton reported beauty advertising was soft "across the board" at his company. The first quarter also brought a downturn in financial advertising. Strong categories for Hearst included drugs and remedies, computers and software, watches and jewelry, and liquor.
"I think '99 is a challenge," Mr. Clinton said. "There are lot of balls in the air, and a lot of companies are going through regroupings and repositionings. We're seeing a lot of fluid ad budgets. It's a bit of a roller-coaster, but overall I'm pretty optimistic about the year."
The newsweeklies all posted ad page gains for the first quarter. Category leader Time was up 13.6% to 646.48. Newsweek, up 2.2%, carried 524.61 ad pages, while U.S. News & World Report was up 4.9% to 476.23.
The women's service titles, for the most part, had a tough first quarter. Meredith Corp. page leader Better Homes & Gardens was off 5.2% to 367.75 ad pages. Sister title Ladies' Home Journal was down 21% to 274.86 pages. Gruner & Jahr USA Publishing's Family Circle was down 9.7% to 313.01 pages, while McCall's was off 16.2% to 201.99 pages. Hachette Filipacchi's Woman's Day was down slightly, 1.7%, to 332.49 pages.
Contrary to the rest of the Seven Sisters, Hearst's two women's service books recorded gains. Good Housekeeping was up a slight 1.4% to 278.34 pages while