U.S. mags test split-run waters

The barbarians may not exactly be storming the gate left open by the passage of Bill C-55, but they are starting to test the defences....

The barbarians may not exactly be storming the gate left open by the passage of Bill C-55, but they are starting to test the defences.

In what many are saying is the first real incursion of foreign split-run magazines into Canada since the controversial federal magazine bill was passed into law last June, two U.S.-based magazines, Maxim and Prevention, have recently announced plans to sell stripped-in ad space to Canadian advertisers.

The bill allows foreign-owned magazines with no Canadian editorial content to sell as much as 12% of their total advertising space to advertisers who want to reach only a magazine’s Canadian rate base. The threshold increases to 15% in 2001 and to 18% in June of 2002.

Representatives of both Maxim and Prevention say their split-run foray is an experiment, but that if results are good, more aggressive sales and marketing campaigns could follow.

"We know the health movement among a certain age group is global," says Denise Favorule, associate publisher of Prevention, a wellness publication owned by Emmaus, Pa.-based publishing giant Rodale Publishing. "It could be something that really grows and has a huge interest in Canada."

Of Prevention’s total circulation of three million, there are approximately 118,000 Canadian subscribers. Another 36,000 copies are sold on Canadian newsstands. A full-page, full-colour ad in the magazine’s Canadian edition will cost $18,000. Given that its April issue ran 116 pages, the magazine could have sold as many as 13 full-page Canadian ads and still have been under the 12% threshold.

When Bill C-55 was finally enacted last year, Rodale Publishing took a closer look at the Canadian market, where it was pleased to discover Prevention is the largest paid subscription health magazine in the country, says Favorule. With a median reader age of 50, and an 80% female skew, the magazine targets a potentially lucrative market of boomer-aged women. Canadian publications that could suffer as a result of it entering Canada as a split-run include general interest women’s magazines like Chatelaine, Canadian Living and Homemakers, and even unpaid circulation magazines like Shoppers Drug Mart’s Healthwatch.

In the case of Maxim, there’s nothing else like it published in Canada, says Martin Tully, president of Canadian Media Connection, the Toronto-based sales agency that represents both it and Prevention in Canada. Maxim, which targets men 18-35, is best known for its monthly photo-heavy features of Hollywood starlets.

Maxim represents a significant media opportunity for Canadian advertisers. Its paid Canadian circulation doubled from 109,000 in June 1999 to 213,000 at the end of the year, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations. In the U.S., 1.3 million people buy it monthly.

"I think in most cases, advertising for Maxim will come from other media," Tully says, noting that sports-focused television programs would form Maxim’s primary competition.

Maxim’s advertising director, J.P. Kyrillos, agrees. In a phone interview from the magazine’s New York office, he adds that Maxim shouldn’t be painted as a Goliath to Canadian publishers’ David.

"Maybe if you look at it in a vacuum, some ad dollars will come to the U.S. that would have gone domestically into Canada," he says. "But we’re moving toward a more global economy and certainly every country is going to lose and win. I think that goes both ways."

The Maxim and Prevention split-runs are the first trickle in what is sure to be an eventual torrent, says Canadian Magazine Publishers Association executive director Mark Jamison. His organization fought tooth and nail against split-runs during the debate between magazine publishers and advertisers leading up to the passage of

C-55 last year.

"The potential for long-term deterioration in the ability of Canadian content to survive is the issue, not what will happen in the first 10 months or two years," he says, reiterating one of the main arguments put forward by the magazine industry last year. "It’s the long-term decline that is the real worry."

Ron Lund, president of the Association of Canadian Advertisers, feels just the opposite. "We’re delighted," says Lund of the introduction of the new split-runs. His organization fought hard to gain access for its members to the Canadian circulation base of U.S. magazines. Although he says he’d like to see more Canadian content in these magazines, he emphasizes Canadians are the ones making the decision to read U.S. magazines.

"The readers are already reading the publications," he says. "We need titles that are going to attract the reader, plain and simple. Part of the problem is that protectionism only deteriorates the quality of anything, it doesn’t actually improve the competitiveness."

Despite impressive growth in Canada, both Maxim and Prevention will face a tough sell here, according to some media buyers. The main stumbling blocks? Price and a lack of readership data. A full-page ad in Maxim’s Canadian edition sells for $27,000 and neither it nor Prevention are members of PMB Print Measurement Bureau.

"That sounds pretty pricey to me," says Ailsa MacLachlan, VP group media director at OMD Canada, adding that good readership data could potentially justify Maxim’s hefty price tag.

Prevention might have an easier time with its lower cost-per-thousand readers, she says, but it also faces more competition in the marketplace. The lack of current readership data won’t keep the magazines out of the running for ads, she adds, but it will make them slightly less attractive.

From Karen Howe’s dining table: Creativity, COVID and Cannes

ICYMI, The Township's founder gathers the best of the best campaigns and trends so far.

Cannes Base Camp

By Karen Howe

I’m attending Cannes from the glory of my dining room table. There’s not a palm tree in sight, yet inspiration and intel are present in abundance.

Cannes Lions is a global cultural pulse check. The social course correction in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and BLM has delivered far greater diversity in the judging panels as well as the work. And we are all better for it.

I’m proud to say that creativity defeated COVID, which speaks to its power. Great work and big ideas flourished, despite unimaginable odds.

The work from the past two years spans a vast emotional range. From the profundity of Dove’s “Courage is Beautiful” to the hyper exuberance of Burberry’s “Festive,” they are opposite ends of the spectrum, but each answered a need in us.

Take note, the ascendency of gaming cannot be understated. Smart brands have embraced the channel. It makes sense, because gamers participate to meet others around the world, not just to play. And they represent a huge and powerful community. That’s why QSR Wendy’s gamified their iconic gal in RPG’s Feast of Legends.

Burger King sponsored the unknown Stevenage Football Club, transforming the team into online heroes and vaulting BK into the fray at the same time. Once again, the brand embedded itself in culture.

The birth of gaming tourism arrived when Xbox snuggled up to travel guides and created a brilliant baby: a travel guide for gaming worlds. It, too, embedded itself in culture.

From the standpoint of social good, Reporter Without Borders showed how it worked with Mindcraft for its “Uncensored Library” to bypass press censorship, with Minecraft providing a loophole to a space where young people could be educated. It provided youth with a powerful tool to fight oppression: truth.

COVID changed us in unexpected ways. We learned how to pay attention again and there was a notable lack of 30-second commercials. Instead, longer format content thrived. Apple’s WFH was seven minutes long. Entertainment reigned king, so we find ourselves returning to our advertising roots.

Seeing competitive brands form partnerships was one of this year’s other great surprises. The brilliantly simple “Beer Cap Project” by Aguila to reduce binge-drinking saw the brand reach out to competitive beers to join in. Aguila put incentivizing (keyword: free) reminders to drink water, eat food and get home safely on its bottle caps from all sorts of fast food chains, ride-share co’s and H2O brands.

On a personal level, I’m so proud of Canada again this year. Given that it was two years of work from all over the world being judged, even making the Cannes shortlist was an accomplishment. Canada is herding in the Lions in tremendous numbers – and it’s not even over. Fingers are crossed.

KAREN-HOWE-PIC-higher-rez-300x263Karen Howe is a Canadian Cannes Advisory Board Member and founder of The Township Group