MEDIA: ELLE - AN EXPERT'S VIEW. Elle's new popularist approach risks its positioning as fashion bible, Francesca Newland says

Sarah Jessica Parker is a very fashionable lady. Not only does she drape herself in Manhattan's coolest clothes, she even has the hottest accessory of the moment - a baby on the way.

Her status as a style icon is rarely challenged, which made her a sound choice to grace the front cover of September's edition of Elle, the first issue edited cover-to-cover by Sarah Bailey since she took over the editorship in the spring.

In many respects Parker is the embodiment of the Elle brand - she fuses fame with fashion. The meteoric rise of celebrity titles including Heat, OK! and Now has inspired many women's titles to incorporate far more celebrity coverage.

So far, so good. But what happens inside? I can't help but notice that in order to appeal to a wider audience, Elle appears to be moving away from its fashion positioning. There are two features about boyfriends - one on how to pull and another on what boyfriends think of their girlfriends' clothes. There's also a feature on the death of the Four Weddings and a Funeral actress Charlotte Coleman, that is more Marie Claire than Elle.

You can also see Bailey's J17 history creeping through in the editorial as the magazine moves to attract a young audience. There's a colourful typeface used in the headlines and standfirsts that's got a very young feel to it and there's also plenty of affordable fashion from the likes of Jigsaw and Oasis.

The magazine has seen its circulation fall over the past 12 months, although there's been a slight improvement in the past six months. This makes it a crucial period for the title and not just because its future with Emap in the UK has been called into question since its French parent Hachette bought Attic Futura earlier this month.

I'm a bit of a purist when it comes to branding and I've always categorised Elle as the magazine for people who truly are into fashion. I think that's a strong positioning. This move toward broadening the title's appeal threatens that, even though it's designed to bring in more readers. If the wider remit works and attracts a younger audience interested in boyfriend advice and celebrity lifestyles, then well done Elle. But there's a risk that the title is trying to be all things to everyone and will end up being nothing to anyone.

Still, the title is an attractive proposition to a wide range of advertisers.

Elle's core fashion audience should make it an enduring investment for the upmarket brands, while the new younger appeal makes it relevant to the likes of Top Shop and Rimmel.

- Francesca Newland, Campaign's news editor, admits to being a fashion victim.

Publisher: Emap Elan
Frequency: Monthly
Cover price: £2.90
Circulation: 212,286 (up 0.7 per cent period on period, down 5.4 per
cent year on year)
Full-page ad rate: £10,400
Advertisers include: Gap, Estee Lauder, Ralph Lauren, Gucci, Honda,
Chanel, Fujifilm

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