Media Headliner: Look no further for what today's woman wants

IPC Connect's Evelyn Webster explains why its new title Look will eschew a cynical portrayal of celebrities.

Jade Goody might want to hear this. Apparently, our insatiable desire to see celebrities squirm at their weakest and most vulnerable is about to turn full circle. That's according to Evelyn Webster, the managing director of IPC Connect, who speaks confidently of the motivations behind its new woman's weekly, Look, which will compete against almost 30 other women's titles this week.

"There is a growing wave of young women who are frustrated at the cynical portrayal of celebrities in the media," the 37-year-old says pointedly. "These are people who take their cues from the way that celebrities dress and the larger-than-life character that they subsume. They don't want to see the likes of hairy armpits, circles of shame, missing tanlines or Britney Spears flashing her knickers."

Webster, a veteran at IPC after starting there as a graduate trainee 15 years ago, believes the revenue- generating power of celebrities goes beyond driving cover sales.

Much is weighted on her judgment. With a two-year investment of £18 million and a £9 million marketing war chest, Look is the title that IPC hopes will revive its fortunes in the 18- to 30-year-old female market and take the fight back to Emap, which has had success with Grazia, Heat and Closer.

If the magazine has an underlying point of difference, it is how it plans to capitalise on the connection between celebrity and high- street fashion. Globalisation and a thriving economy mean high- street brands such as Primark, Gap and New Look can now turn around product lines quickly, confident that a young audience with access to cash and credit are waiting on the receiving end. As a result, garments worn by the likes of Miller, Moss, Hilton and Posh can be quickly replicated and made available in the mainstream market at a fraction of the price. Look, effectively, plans to act as its window.

It launches this week offering an 108-page editorial package combining the week's celebrity news alongside the latest shopping menus that give readers exclusive "access to celebrity lifestyle".

This may not sound like the most earth-shattering premise, but it is the result of painstaking research. The 18-month product development process started with a blank brief and saw Webster and her team "live in" with their target audience for periods of up to a week during the first six months of creative development. "We wanted to get under the skin of young women and see how they spent their time, what their habits were, what media they consumed and what they talked about," Webster recalls.

Some of the research found that the staple offerings of the traditional women's weekly don't necessarily go down too well. Sex advice, for example. "These women are already sexually active," Webster says. "They find magazines that bang on endlessly about sex and relationships patronising, and certainly don't want pages of features that talk about how to have three orgasms."

Finances are also off the agenda: "If they want financial advice, they'd rather go to their bank or financial manager. They don't want to read about it in social time."

The net result is that Look, for all its targeting of the independent 18- to 30-year-old with the world at her feet, is focused on shopping and celebrity. The few "real-life" features include a M25 coach crash victim and an investigation into gang rape in Pakistan. Both offer little more than a stiff cappuccino break for weekly bargain hunters.

But is Look simply a younger version of Grazia? The claim puts Webster on the offensive. "Grazia is for a different reader altogether," she says. "I'd say more affluent mid-30s. People like me. Look is much more mass-market. You won't find Sienna Miller's scarf for £12, nor the diversity of fashion options or the same labels."

One look at the advertising in both magazines confirms these differences. Grazia carries a range of aspirational brands such as Lancome, Seat and Sony Ericsson. Look's portfolio of ads includes Pantene, and Vaseline. To ram this point home, Look's cover- price will be £1.30: 50p cheaper than its Emap rival.

Look's revenue model is very traditionally IPC - it anticipates that 75 per cent of revenues will come from coverprice, with 25 per cent from ads. Webster predicts a circulation of 250,000 in the first 12 months.

Alongside the editorial team of 40, led by the editor, Ali Hall, the ad sales team from Now will sell across Look as well. In addition, two specialist retail fashion teams have been created and will be pitching to a remit that Webster describes as "unashamedly fashion and style".

For all the hype of IPC's magazine launch in the digital age, Look's strategy is primarily paper-based, something that Webster is unapologetic about. Citing its sister title Chat as an example, she says: "Readers are web users, but don't want to see the magazine content simply replicated online. They spend enough time on the computer and would prefer not to have to take it to bed or the bath. The challenge for publishers is to marry both mediums."

IPC's circulation targets will be backed by the £9 million marketing push, that includes TV ads from the recent ad agency start-up Hurrell and Dawson. There's no lack of support for Look, but the broader question is whether IPC's concept can cut through the competition and create a readership of young women in constant need of a weekly "fashion fix".

Job: Managing director, IPC Connect
Age: 37
Lives: Wimbledon, South-West London
Family: Three cats. Sebastian, Tabitha and Natasha
Most treasured possession: My cats. And my Chloe handbag
Biggest achievement: Outside of work, it was running the marathon in
3.24 hours in 2004. If I'd done it nine minutes quicker, I'd have been
an elite runner
Favourite magazine: The Week. It's bloody brilliant. I wish it was mine
Interests: Running, travelling, watching rugby