June 2007

Jennifer Johnson

magazine whore

Advertisements in Disguise

Lucky is not a magazine -- it’s an annotated catalogue. When I started flipping through it, I quickly realized that the real action isn’t in the editorial pages of Lucky, it’s in the ads. How does an advertiser stand out in a “magazine” that has little to no content? By creating their own content, of course! It’s like the world series of advertising with every company bringing their heaviest hitters (read: best photos, most interesting copy, etc.) to try to hit a home run. And how do we know when an ad has hit one out of the park? Because you actually notice it, of course.

Okay, I’ll kill the long, drawn-out baseball analogy here. Let’s look at the essence of Lucky: the ads. 

First up: “A Minute with Donna Karan.” “Her chic, wearable designs have been a fashion mainstay for more than 20 years. We sat down with Donna Karan to get to know her, ask her advice, and find out what she can’t live without.” Who’s “we”? Why, could this advertisement be posing as some sort of interview written by a writer at Lucky? Hell, is it an interview written by a writer at Lucky? It makes me wonder where this idea came from: Lucky or Donna Karan. Considering last month’s “A Minute with Zac Posen,” I’m thinking it’s the former. Is this somehow a classier way to advertise designer clothing than draping it across rail-thin models?  

Lucky’s other clever monthly advertising feature is the “sticker ad.” It’s a page of “Yes!” and “Maybe?” stickers to use to mark your favorites throughout the magazine, brought to you by a sponsor, of course. May’s sponsor was Garnier Fructis and, I must say, it was oddly addicting to pull the stickers off. The back of each one contained messages like “Goodbye to frizz!” and “Lock in smooth hair” -- sort of a Chinese cookie-style “adver-fortune.” I WILL say goodbye to frizz, thank you!

Another fascinating bit of “advertainment” -- as I’m sure I’m not the first to call it -- is a four page spread for TRESemme Thermal Creations styling line. This isn’t just a spread though: these four pages are packed. The first three feature Amanda Peet, star of the soon to be defunct Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, who has apparently been crowned 2007 Entertainment Industry Foundation (EIF) Ambassador. I’m not sure what exactly this exalted title entails (I’m imagining ribbon cutting ceremonies at orphanages and soup kitchens), but the EIF is basically a charitable foundation run by the entertainment industry -- their opportunity to give back, yada yada. Not sure why this is relevant to a four page ad for hair products, but let’s not overanalyze. It does mention, “Amanda Peet is a proud supporter of the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research” which I’m guessing means that they got some sort of donation as a result of this. Good for them.

The last page of the spread is a “how-to” guide to attaining the three looks that Ms. Peet has shown us in the previous pages. The looks: “Turn Up the Volume,” “Sleek & Chic” and “Vivacious Curls.” Yup, if you’re looking for a hairstyle with a title, you’ve come to the right place. Sadly, Amanda Peet couldn’t be bothered to sit for the actual how-to photos. Perhaps she doesn’t want the world to see her without product in her hair? Instead we get -- hey, is that Mandy Moore? No, it’s just a model that looks like her. Anyway, the how-to section of this spread is surprisingly informative and includes step-by-step instructions with photos accompanying each step. I’m surprised more hair product advertisements don’t do this. Seems only logical to educate your consumers on how to get more use out of your product.

But the best way to stand out in a magazine full of ads? The pull-out section. This month’s feature’s “Tips from Carmindy,” whom you may know as the one-named makeup artist extraordinaire from TLC’s What Not to Wear. My favorite part appeared in the first little section entitled “Treat Yourself,” containing three tips for body confidence. What are the tips? 1. Have a mini spa session featuring both a bath and a shower. 2. “Feel as good as you look by fueling up on a nutrient-packed meal in place of your standard lunch.” 3. Use self tanner. So, what we’ve learned here is that the keys to self-confidence are: take a damn shower once in a while, go on a diet, and get a tan. Not much of a “treat.” Our sponsors here are Slim-Fast and Dove. Hmm, doesn’t seem to fit in with Dove’s much-hyped Campaign for Real Beauty, does it? Other pages feature clothing tips (all clothing available at Wal-Mart) and a guide to getting your whites their whitest from All detergent. The last page, conveniently, has a shopping list featuring, brace yourself, all the great products featured in the pull out -- presumably so you can rush out and buy them now.

As the line between advertisement and entertainment becomes blurrier and blurrier (is there even a difference anymore?), it gets harder and harder to extract one from the other. In Lucky, there are no pretenses -- it’s all an ad, everything is for sale. And, if rising circulation numbers are any indication, it seems like more and more people are looking for just that: stuff to buy. No wonder so many Americans are in debt.