MEDIA: SPOTLIGHT ON: FMCG ADS IN MEN’S MAGAZINES; Is there a place for fmcg ads in men’s glossy magazines?

Alasdair Reid questions if Lever’s ad deal with men’s magazines will set a trend

Alasdair Reid questions if Lever’s ad deal with men’s magazines will set

a trend

Detergent manufacturers have never really known what to do about the

evolving status of men as consumers. They’ve just about got their heads

around the fact that men spend an increasing amount of their time in

supermarkets these days and might buy the occasional packet of washing


But so far their advertising strategies have been somewhat confused - at

best, patronising. No surprise there, some might say - they’ve been

patronising women for years. Even though men now regularly appear in

washing powder ads, they seem to be there principally to flatter women

by reinforcing their perceptions of men as domestic morons. Even if a

man manages to stop himself from spilling powder all over the floor,

he’ll certainly be unable to get the washing machine to work. In short,

soap advertisers go for ‘men behaving incompetently’.

Lever Brothers is trying to change all that by going for ‘men behaving

badly’. In an attempt to move with the laddish times, and in homage to

the BBC comedy show of the same name, the press work in its new Persil

campaign will feature three young chaps who share a flat together.

What’s more, the company is dropping all references to housewives from

its marketing vocabulary.

Pretty radical - if small-scale - stuff? We shall see. Perhaps the

biggest surprise is not that Persil is trying to address men in a new

way but that it intends to spend a small but significant proportion of

the press budget in men’s magazines such as Loaded and GQ.

Could fmcg brands become a significant new source of revenue for this

sector? Do men’s titles want this type of advertising? Most of these

magazines come from what used to be called the style and grooming

sector, so won’t soap powder ads blow their cool? Won’t they frighten

off the style advertisers - the watches, cars, designer lagers and

aftershaves? Surely titles like Loaded will lose more than a little of

their swagger if they start running grocery ads?

Not necessarily, according to Peter Stuart, the publishing director of

GQ. ‘We are read by 29-year-old men who buy a lot of fmcg products,’ he

states. ‘We’d be churlish to turn it down - so long as the creative

work is in keeping with the ambience of the book. The sort of stuff that

runs in Woman’s Weekly wouldn’t work, but my view is that anything the

detergent manufacturers do to get away from the bland blunderbuss

approach is great. They should have ten different creative approaches

for ten different markets.’

John Wisbey, the publisher of Esquire, agrees: ‘We’ve faced this issue

before. In the past we’ve felt that fmcg advertisers only look at the

demographics and don’t spend much time thinking about how the creative

will sit in the magazine. But if they can understand what we are about,

and if they get their approach right, there are compelling reasons for

using us to talk to men about fmcgs.’

So, are fmcg advertisers an exciting new source of revenue for the

sector? Mike Wood, the media director of J. Walter Thompson, which

handles Persil’s creative work, says publishers should not get too

carried away. ‘For fmcg advertisers, there is probably a great deal to

be gained from being among the first to use men’s titles. There is great

stand-out value to be won. But, longer term, it’s never really going to

take off.

‘The crucial factor is that the market now overestimates the fmcg

purchasing power of men. The consumers classified in research as female

housewives still, on average, account for around 90 per cent of all fmcg

purchases. In any case, men’s magazines aren’t the way to reach men in a

mass-market sense, and even if you do use them you’d have to have ads

written specially. I can’t see it being very big,’ he says.

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