Monday, July 03, 2006

health magazine: Rodale goes to the movies

It takes the unusual step of running advertisements for Women's Health in theaters.

By Kurt Blumenau Of The Morning Call

''Women's Health is a new magazine. They're trying to build up brand equity any way they can.''

Can the ideal reader for a women's health magazine be found with her hands around a jumbo cup of soda, a tub of extra-buttery popcorn and a big box of Raisinets?

Rodale thinks so. The Emmaus publishing company advertised in movie theaters for the first time this spring, creating a 30-second commercial trailer for Women's Health, the recently launched counterpart to its hugely successful Men's Health magazine.

Rodale spent about $1 million on the campaign, which aired before blockbusters such as ''Mission Impossible III'' and ''The DaVinci Code'' at theaters in five major cities from late April to the start of June. The spot shows a woman being harassed by fashion models on magazine covers, before finally finding a friendly face on the cover of Women's Health.

''It's an empowering [publication],'' Kate Kelly Smith, the magazine's publisher, said of Women's Health. ''We celebrate everything that's right with women.''

Rodale officials said they consider the campaign a success. A similar television spot may follow, though talks are still in early stages.

Advertising industry analysts said they did not know of another magazine company taking its message to the movies.

On a broad level, though, they said Rodale's cinematic campaign fits in with a new sense of creativity among publishers. Companies such as Rodale are using new tools, such as podcasts and Internet campaigns, to reach their desired audiences anywhere they can, analysts said.

''If you know where your audience is going to be, you can pretty much target that,'' said Barry Janoff, executive editor of Brandweek, a marketing trade publication in New York City.

Rodale, founded in 1930, made its name as a publisher of magazines and direct-mail book titles about healthy living. In recent years, the company has switched its book-publishing focus to the mass market, scoring best-sellers such as ''The South Beach Diet,'' Al Gore's ''An Inconvenient Truth'' and Pete Rose's ''My Prison Without Bars.'' Its magazines include Runner's World and Prevention.

Rodale employs about 700 people locally, and also has operations in the publishing hub of New York City. It had revenues of about $550 million last year, up 13 percent.

$1 million campaign

Rodale officials declined to say how the $1 million ad campaign price tag compares with the company's typical promotional budget. It's no secret, though, that Rodale has high aspirations for Women's Health, which launched in October after five trial issues.

Rodale leaders have said the publication, which combines health, wellness, beauty and lifestyle elements, could redefine the category of women's health magazines, competing against established titles such as Self and Fitness. The company is trying to position Women's Health as a source of sensible, substantive personal advice to professional women between ages 25 and 39.

''At Women's Health, we're not about the rules, or the hunt, or the great big boy/girl game,'' Rodale declared in an ad campaign in trade publications that launched in March. ''We're about two people coming together, staying together and living together.''

Women's Health will have to do well to match its masculine predecessor. Men's Health, launched in 1986, has been called one of the most successful rollouts in magazine history. It had an average paid circulation of almost 1.8 million at the end of last year, according to a statement filed by Rodale with the Audit Bureau of Circulation.

Women's Health, which publishes 10 times per year, has a circulation of about 600,000, according to Rodale. By comparison, the more established Self and Fitness each claimed circulation between 1.4 million and 1.5 million, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations. Self is published by Conde Nast, while Fitness is a Meredith Corp. title.

Women's Health is aimed at readers who want to ''be in the know,'' publisher Smith said. That includes wanting to see the year's big movies — one reason why Rodale and its New York ad agency, Margeotes Fertitta Powell, developed their cinematic pitch.