‘So Rob, have you heard of Stu magazine?’

Doug Bennet, publisher of Masthead magazine, was on the phone and I was on shaky ground.
'Hi Rob. How do you think advertisers will react to Stu Magazine?'

Doug Bennet, publisher of Masthead magazine, was on the phone and I was on shaky ground.

‘Hi Rob. How do you think advertisers will react to Stu Magazine?’

I knew nothing about Stu Magazine. Do I fake it or admit ignorance?

Stuart Neilhardt, a publishing novice, feels our country needs Stu Magazine: a magazine for the adequate man. The Stu Web site features a nerdy but happy dude on the premier cover. Maybe that’s Stuart himself. Story headlines include… Sex? No Sweat. Five positions to give her pleasure without getting off your back. No new magazine is complete without a travel story. Travel is work. Why leave town? Vacationing in your local motel.

The Stu readers are the cousins you never wanted to visit when you were kids. And now they’ve grown up. They don’t want to go clubbing; they think fancy sports cars are embarrassing; they eschew the latest in high-tech toys; they stay away from new clothes; they aren’t interested in bicycling through rural China. When brand managers, media planners and creative types get together to visualize a target consumer, these guys are never mentioned. Actually, we don’t even want to acknowledge their existence. In our media world, they are the odd men out.

To use a harvesting metaphor, MAXIM and TORO pull off the rich kernels of maleness from the field of Canadian demography, while Stu Magazine combs through the leftover chaff for its potential readers.

‘Is this a prank, Doug?’ I asked. ‘No…it’s legitimate,’ Doug replied. ‘I checked with the printer! Think about it and call me later. I’m doing an article in our new magazine launch section. What kinds of advertisers are going to want to be in this publication?’

There is only one way to see into the minds of this hidden society of anti-TORO males. I turn to the most recent PMB study and the questions that delve into the attitudes and beliefs of respondents. I drew up an anti-list. These fellows would ‘avoid the type of problem that calls for too much thinking.’ They would agree with the statement ‘I am not comfortable with new technologies.’

They would ‘rather spend an evening at home than almost anything else.’ They would find it ‘difficult to start a conversation with a stranger.’ They would ‘avoid parties’ and express a lack of interest in ‘more exotic vacation travel.’ I grew increasingly uncomfortable as I pondered over my list of consumer attributes. I was beginning to empathize with the Stu Magazine reader!

The good news for Stu: There are a lot of these people in Canada. The folks who are ‘out of control’ represent 12% of Canada’s adult population. And there are over 10 million adults out there who would rather spend their evenings at home than party on.

But I’m afraid the overall demographic profile was dispiriting. The anti-exotic vacationers are old, poorly paid, light magazine readers, with low levels of education. The new technology eschewers are basically the same. The too-much-thinking problem avoiders are even older and poorer. But none of the groups could match party poopers in terms of low household income.

The folks who find it difficult to start up a conversation with a stranger are actually quite average… average age, average education, average job. They gravitate to smaller markets to some extent. You’ll also find Canadians who have trouble making friends (the group I relate to) scattered throughout all walks of life. They’re just as likely to be a doctor as a welder; young and old; rich and poor; Albertan and Quebecer.

I called Doug back with the bad news. I had to conclude that an article in Stu Magazine entitled… DESIGNER DUMPSTER DIVING: From irregular suits to deprogrammed cellphones, make the best of all the gear that gets thrown away!, would attract the wrong type of reader for our brands. Thumbs down from PHD I’m afraid.

Rebecca Eckler of the National Post disagreed with my assessment. I saw her article of praise a few days after I delivered my damning assessment to Masthead. She found the notion of a magazine for the adequate man to be charming.

Doug called back a week later. Stu Magazine was a hoax. The crack research team at CBC’s As It Happens couldn’t find Stuart Neihardt. The toothbrush company that was touted as a participating advertiser disavowed all knowledge of Stu. Read about the whole story in Jesse Brown’s Experiment section, Nov. 15 issue of Saturday Night.

Have you heard of Rob Magazine…for guys who can’t make friends?

I think advertisers would go for it.

Rob Young is one of the founders of Toronto’s PHD Canada (formerly HYPN). He can be reached at: ryoung@phdca.com.