CONSUMER MAGAZINES: Wooing women - How do women's magazines use advertising to communicate with their audience?

Two potential readers look at the media plans and ads for Glamour, Heat and InStyle.

Glamour is specifically designed for a woman's handbag, so I road-test it and it fits perfectly into my latest Prada clutchbag. But before it can gain permanent entry, I give it the once over.

Am I suffering from deja vu? Isn't this the same cover layout as Cosmopolitan? Similar typeface? Similar articles? Similar pouting glamour-girl shot?

It's visually cluttered, with article titles such as "Sex. How many is too many?", "What men really think" - it seems not only the half-sister of Cosmopolitan, but its fully fledged twin.

The TV ads show a number of sophisticated women who are full of contradictions.

From "I couldn't eat a whole one, I'll just have a taste of yours", cutting to a plate with only a few crumbs left on it. It continues throughout in this vein. Am I suffering from deja vu again? (This ad seems to be reminiscent of an ad Saatchi & Saatchi produced in the 70s for the relaunch of Cosmopolitan.)

The TV is witty and understands a woman's brain. But the magazine doesn't live up to the promise. I suggest it concentrates on what it doesn't realise it stands for - its own attitude, which is about talking to aspiring women in an intelligent, unpatronising way.

Verdict: Access to my handbag denied.

As anyone who knows me will testify, InStyle could not be more targeted to a woman like myself, whose shopaholic tendencies have been forced into rehab for the foreseeable future.

At first glance, the cover seems old-fashioned and dull. Yet the free magazine that came with it, 100 Best Beauty Buys, seemed more enticing with a simple, bold layout.

The TV ad shows a woman in her late 20s, accompanied by a group of top stylists, who advise her on hair, make-up, accessories and clothes on her shopping trip. It is backed up by ads on the London Underground offering fashion advice. The only problem is that, while I'm in clothes-buying remission, I would normally be completely absorbed by page two of this magazine. But instead, I'm bored by page four.

Verdict: The TV promises far more than the delivery of the magazine.

To me, Heat is the following: Bottom-line gossip with articles for girls on the go! Between Baker Street and Great Portland Street stations, Heat is the perfect substitute to my best friend's gossip. Its layouts are bold and simple. Refreshingly photographically led with big bold shots and minimum copy. The TV complements the magazine brilliantly. The lead character, Carol, is down to earth and easily identifiable.

Verdict: The TV's great. The magazine's stupendous. What more can a girl say? - Alex Taylor is a creative director at Publicis


The magazine market is all about pace. These brands simply don't have time to build relationships through media, they have a product to do that. While it's easy to argue that they are all using a sledgehammer to crack a nut by using so much TV, in a world where volume of purchase is the be-all and end-all, this is the belt-and-braces approach.

Of all the titles, Heat has the best natural fit with TV because it's the only title that could honestly say that the medium is an effective bridge between the brand and the consumer representing the interests of both.

Over the past three years, Heat magazine has slowly built up its use of TV, moving from a cherry-picked youth satellite mix, plus Channel 4/five and a dash of ITV, through to home interest and more mass-market channels. Beyond this, Heat is playing a share-of-mind approach with a fairly consistent presence across the year. This helps to underline the fact that Heat gets the celebrity news first every week, so the media plan is true to what the brand delivers.

While Glamour uses TV in a more targeted way than InStyle, neither of them could really claim that TV is more appropriate for them than an upmarket media match would be.

But as we know, cinema doesn't cut it on the cost-per-thousand or awareness-build front in this market.

More interesting, perhaps, is the fact that Glamour and InStyle have spent roughly the same amount on the same media mix since launch but, as we all know, they are sitting in very different places in the circulation ladder.

While the success of each is more about the product appeal than advertising media selection, the fact that InStyle (the title for "affluent style-conscious women in their 20s") has advertised both on GMTV and Sky Sports cannot have helped perceptions. The fact is that this is simply not necessary, given that a more targeted use of TV would free up money to pursue more appropriate media tactics such as its recent use of ads on the London Underground.

Beyond this appraisal of above-the-line media as registered on MMS, we must also remember that the above-the-line support of these products is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of the communications channels used. Whoever managed to achieve magazine distribution in Marks & Spencer's for these titles is the person with the truest sense of where and when to reach women.

All three titles chase tough commercial targets and use broadcast to funnel a volume of audience as rapidly as possible into point of sale.

The issue for us as media planners is whether we judge the effectiveness of our planning simply against pragmatic measures such as sales, or incorporate more audience-focused tools delivering a more engaging message, the aim being to grow volume in the short term, but help build relationships and loyalty in the long term. - Frances Ralston-Good is the media group manager at PHD.


Become a member of Campaign from just £46 a quarter

Get the very latest news and insight from Campaign with unrestricted access to ,plus get exclusive discounts to Campaign events

Become a member

Looking for a new job?

Get the latest creative jobs in advertising, media, marketing and digital delivered directly to your inbox each day.

Create an Alert Now

Partner content