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ALL BUNDLED UP: The knives — albeit relatively blunt ones — are out, ahead of the release of the latest British ABC figures on Feb. 11. In a colorful letter to ad agencies and brands, British Vogue publisher Stephen Quinn has accused rival NatMags of inflating the circulation figures of British Harper’s Bazaar by bundling it with mass market, less-sophisticated sister titles She and Coast.
“Fashion upstart Harper’s Bazaar dances with the fishes by offering value packs at U.K. newsstands to bolster sales,” Quinn writes. “This packaging of inappropriate titles such as She and Coast with Harper’s Bazaar…will allow Bazaar to boost their numbers in the forthcoming ABCs. Without these inappropriate value packs…the ABC posted by Bazaar would show a greatly reduced total.
“It is reasonable to question such tactics, as the headline number could be taken as showing legitimate growth amongst upscale consumers when, in reality, the Bazaar audience is dragged down-market in the process,” he added in the letter.
Tess Macleod-Smith, NatMag’s Luxury Group Publishing director, shot back with the following statement: “It is good to see that Vogue is so threatened by the success of Harper’s Bazaar. Their claims are factually incorrect. Magazine multipacks are an effective marketing tool used industrywide that allows Harper’s Bazaar to reach a wider audience of similar profile. Harper’s Bazaar subscriptions are at their highest level ever, posting its 14th consecutive ABC increase.” Numbers are due next week for the period from July to December 2009.
A spokesman for Pringle, one of Bazaar’s luxury advertisers, said the brand was not concerned about the polybagging strategy. “For us, there are only two criteria for advertising: The quality of the writing, and that of the fashion shoots. Many titles use special forms of promotional packaging, and we fully support Harper’s Bazaar,” he said, adding that if Vogue decided to adopt a similar strategy, “it would not be a problem for us.”
— Samantha Conti