I was at the hairdresser during the week, which is where I get my fill of women’s magazines. I spend a lot of time online, and immersed in the world of beauty, but there is something still very calming and comforting about turning the pages of a glossy. While I don’t get my information about beauty products from magazines anymore, it’s still nice to see something you recognise in there.
But I also noticed something else quite glaring.
Like the pressure on women, magazines are getting thinner and thinner. This is a far cry from the days of yore, when magazines used to weigh a ton and a half, and resemble the telephone directory. Kids, you do know what a telephone directory looks like right? LOL :P
That’s when it struck me – where are all the ads? 8O
Big beauty brands aren’t taking out print advertisements
Now, I’m not saying it’s a good or a bad thing, that the pages of ads that used to form the majority of the glossies, now form the minority of pages. What I did notice however, was that many of the big players were conspicuously missing.
I remember that most of the first few pages of a magazine (naturally, I’m referring to women’s magazines here, not a computer magazine) tend to be dominated by two-page ad spreads by the big beauty brands – Estee Lauder, Lancome, Dior, Chanel – who are all at forefront and centre, pushing their newest and latest skincare or makeup innovations. In March, when whitening/brightening skincare floods the market, the first few pages would always feature bright images, fair women, the newest products to brighten your skintone. This time, I didn’t see that at all.
I had heard through the grapevine, that the Estee Lauder group had pulled all print ads this year, but I did not realise it till I flipped through various local mags, just how true it was. It might even be extended to the L’Oreal group because I did not notice any Lancome or Kerastase ads either. Usually, these ads are quite noticeable. It’s hard not to notice a beautifully photoshopped woman spread across 2 pages of a magazine LOL! :D
When I talked to beauty and magazine editors, the general rumbling was that getting ad money from brands was like getting water out of a stone. I naturally got the side-eye, because everyone had been told that print ad money was going to the digital scene but I was quick to assure them (and you), that I wasn’t seeing the big bucks. I wish :P I did notice however, that it was primarily beauty ads that were reduced. Fashion ads still looked to be going strong, so I’m not sure if fashion is seeing the same trend.
On the flipside however, I did notice ad pages from some brands that I’d not have otherwise paid attention to. Conspicuously, it was The Face Shop and Shiseido with ads towards the front pages of the magazine as opposed to the middle portions. I noticed their ads quite prominently featured in Female and Her World, just off the top of my head, and some other brands that you don’t normally see at the forefront of the magazines.
So all these got me thinking (because there’s a lot of time to spend thinking in the hairdresser’s chair).
Might this reduction in ads by the big beauty brands bring more variety to our magazines?
From what I understand, magazines, being a business, need the ad money. When a certain brand takes out a certain number of ad pages, thereby giving the magazine a certain amount of income, they are usually given more prominent features for their products. Brands recognise that, and so do magazines. It’s a symbiotic relationship, and that’s why you won’t see (much if any) critique in a magazine – they depend on the ad money for survival. (Happening now in blogs/online as well, but that’s a whole new discussion altogether!)
Up till now, the old and major beauty brands like Estee Lauder, Lancome, Dior, Chanel etc have been strong players in the market because they used to take out a lot of print ads in all the major magazines, so their products tend to get top billing. Those who read magazines will naturally notice them and remember them. This, I believe is true up till now. Flip through the older magazines (up to last year, 2016), and you’ll see the first 10 pages at least, dominated by Estee Lauder, Lancome, Dior and Chanel in varying combinations or order.
If these big brands have pulled their print ad budget, although there are still press junkets and wining and dining, print magazines will, naturally, eventually reduce their features over time. Magazines need money to survive. Instead, they may start featuring other brands or products that now choose to advertise; brands that may not have been given as much prominence before this. I noticed that more smaller brands were having products highlighted in the pages, than before.
Perhaps, we will finally see a break in the domination of the beauty pages by the traditional big name brands. I might even call it and say that we may see an increase in Korean brands being featured, whether by way of ads or product feature selection. They have the budget and from what I see, they aren’t averse to taking out advertisements in any manner or form.
If this happens, I think that it’ll be a good thing. For readers anyway, and in a manner of speaking, for the smaller brands who now choose to advertise. If the magazines start showcasing other brands in their features, that may have been sidelined or given less prominence before, then it might bring more interest to that brand or product. What this means for magazine readers is that they may be seeing more variety in terms of the brands available to them. That for me, is a good thing. Variety is always a good thing, and I’m rather looking forward to seeing how the magazines shift to accommodate this shift in ad-spend approach by the big beauty brands.
Going purely digital is a double-edged sword
When I spoke to some people in the know, I was told that many brands were going purely digital with their ad money because that’s where the young and trendy are. There is a great emphasis placed on wooing the young, which I personally feel is misplaced, but that’s something I’d reserve for another day because I do feel quite strongly about it (as a more matured – read: older – beauty consumer). Some print magazines also have a web presence or have built one, to harness this “digital ad income”. But truth to tell, many of them are merely a shadow of their print selves. I don’t read them either unless I happen to stumble on them on my internet trails.
For now, in a way, I feel that this decision for beauty brands to move ad revenue away from print to purely digital, is a double-edged sword. It could work in their favour, or it could stifle their growth and visibility. As much as everyone says that the future is digital, my take on a digital life is that you have to CHOOSE to go online, where you MAY be served a particular digital ad. While many of us are online, many also aren’t or choose to restrict their time online. And online, you can employ things like ad-blocker scripts or plugins so you don’t see the ads; and if you’re anything like me, you’re blind to ads anyway. Online ads are also very targeted, so what you see isn’t necessarily what someone else sees. It’s all quite complicated, but the upshot is, you have to be online to see the ad and you can’t share it with your friends.
Personally speaking, I haven’t noticed or seen any online ads by any of the major beauty players. I’m not on Facebook very much (no personal profile) so if that’s where the ads are, I’m definitely not seeing them. I do realise I’m in the minority when it comes to Facebook, but I’m not alone. I haven’t seen an Estee Lauder or Clinique ad in what seems like months, now I think about it. Perhaps I’m not going to the right pages, or not browsing correctly (ads shown to me tend to be tech related, food related or dress and sneakers related – yep, that’s my browsing pattern right there!), and there is an impact on the consumer psyche, because I had put both these brands on the back burner of my consciousness. There was nothing to remind me of their existence and to be honest, I’d forgotten about them save for the one or two products I may currently use. If I didn’t hear from these brands at all (which I hardly do), I’d literally have skipped them over.
By contrast, a magazine is like a book. You can browse at it at your leisure, without worrying it’ll run out of batteries. You can share it with a friend, or if someone is flipping through a magazine, you can look over their shoulder (bad habit, but hey we all do it!). I personally feel you get more eyeballs on a print ad than in digital. Speaking personally, I will notice an ad in a magazine – I may not necessarily notice it online because I’ve grown accustomed to ignoring ads so now it hits my blind spot.
By way of example, I’ve been in the market for a food processor for a while now, but with the variety in the market, I haven’t been able to settle on one. While flipping through the magazine (at a separate hairdresser trip) I came across a few pages (ok it was really an advertorial) for the Panasonic MK-F800 food processor and I’ve been pretty much obsessed with it since LOL! I don’t get ads in my internet browsing, for food processors. A magazine gave me the idea to consider one particular model. That’s what I mean about targeted ads. Online, it’s very targeted to your browsing and reading habits. A magazine carpet bombs you with information. Some stick, some don’t. In my case, I’m still obsessed with that Panasonic MK-F800 – I need to buy it … don’t I? :P
I guess what I’m saying therefore is that I personally feel that there is still a place for print ads. Perhaps not in the volume that it used to be, but to shut it out totally is rather like putting blinkers on a horse. The future is forward, but it is wide-angle, not tunnel-vision.
Have you noticed this shift or reduction in print ads in magazines? Do you still read or flip through magazines or do you just go online?
I’m probably as guilty as the next person for not buying magazines. But I never have because they just don’t interest me enough to own them. But I enjoy browsing through them especially in waiting rooms or at the hairdressers, and I especially love seeing ads in old magazines. The hair! The makeup! The (now discontinued) brand new products! So much fun! We’d lose that once everything goes online and that would be a pity. Your thoughts welcome :)
Note: This is my observation based on the local magazines I flipped through and people I talked to here in Malaysia. I do not know what magazines elsewhere are like or if the same observations hold true. Feel free to share, if it’s different where you live.