The Six-Figure Schmooze

NEW YORK -- Let's party.That's become the rallying cry of the fashion publishing industry, even as some magazines watch ad pages plummet, circulation fall and heads roll.One day Anna Wintour's jetting off with a legion of Vogue editors...

Roberta Garfinkle, senior vice president, director of print media for McCann Erickson Worldwide, noted that some of the big parties, such as those thrown by Tina Brown, "have no bearing on our life," adding, " Very few agency people are there."

Steve Klein, partner and media director of Kirshenbaum & Bond, noted that some of the advertiser-directed parties "unfortunately" have an impact.

"This is a business of very underpaid people," said Klein. He noted, however, that when magazines are entertaining "masses of media planners, it's a little seamy." For senior level parties, "it's more of a networking thing and they're appreciated."

But Klein believes that fashion parties do serve a greater purpose. "A party is a way of positioning a magazine outside of its pages. If they can give it to you in 3-D, it's a very effective sales tool. If they do it right, then they personify the magazine to their customer base. It's hard to do that in a sales call. A bad party -- an unfashionable evening -- is a death knell."

"You do it for business," said Steven T. Florio, the new president of Conde Nast Publications. "In Tina's [Brown] case, it was an editorially driven party, but the business department was there.

"I think parties can serve a purpose, but we must be very careful in how we invest our dollars," he added. "As a whole industry, it's getting a little out of hand. I think I'll be a little more questioning when I hear about a big party."

While Florio declined to estimate the cost of these parties, he noted that some of them are "serious six-figure commitments."

Even at money-losing publications, party-giving is common. Mirabella, for example, threw a dinner party for 300 at the Four Seasons in Milan during the Italian collections this month, costing $20,000. The magazine also hosted a recent party for Broadway Cares, the AIDS organization, and is planning a major event to mark its fifth anniversary in June.

"You can spend $100,000 easily on a party. Other magazines do. We have a tendency to do smaller-sized parties," said Lisa Pomerantz, director of PR and special events at Mirabella. "We like to do charity parties, entertain clients and do parties for the image of the magazine. They do get coverage."
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