Stuff, Maxim Grow Up, Court Upscale 20-Somethings
Of course, the marketing label is an important part of re-branding the genre.
Beginning with the introduction of Maxim in 1997, the lad mags took America by storm with plenty of skin, juvenile humor and consumer guides. But by fall 2005, this formula had worn thin. In September of that year, Maxim and Stuff both posted double-digit losses in ad pages and substantial losses in rate-card revenue compared to 2004, according to the Publishers Information Bureau.
In September 2005, Stuff's ad pages fell 13.4%, compared to September 2005, while Maxim fell 15.3%. The long hormonal honeymoon was over, and the hard times continued into 2006, with both magazines struggling to match 2005's ad page numbers. For January-October 2006, Maxim's ad pages are down about 10.6% and Stuff 10%, compared to the same period of 2005, according to the PIB.
Faced with the possibility of a long-term decline, this fall Dennis Publishing moved to refurbish the magazines and deliver a better value proposition for advertisers, beginning with personnel shuffles.
In September, Stuff's editor-in-chief Jimmy Jellinek moved to Maxim, replacing Brit Ed Needham, who returned to England. In October, Stuff's Executive Editor Dan Bova replaced Jellinek. The moves were accompanied by editorial changes and demo targeting shifts intended to capture a somewhat older, more affluent readership.
In short, the median age of Stuff's readers has edged up slightly from 27 to 28 between 2004 and 2006, while median income rose from $59,527 to $61,535, according to MRI. More telling, the number of male college graduates increased 38%, male readers with professional or management jobs increased 22% and male homeowners also increased 22%.
Ad spending is also rising in specific areas, holding out the promise of a turnaround in PIB data by the end of the year. In 2006, fashion advertising is up 10%, consumer electronics 16%, and consumer products 30%. What's more, MRI data has total readership up 16% between spring 2005 and spring 2006.
But what kind of editorial is driving this evolution?
One example: "Toys for Bigger Boys," Stuff's December holiday insert, includes not just the usual panoply of consumer electronics for the home, but reviews of cars and--gasp--kitchen appliances. In contrast to other ex-lad mags, Stuff also offers robust travel content, including a revamped "Weekend Warrior" section, supported by new Web features like Stuff VIP Travel, which acts "as a young guy's own luxury concierge service."
For its part, Maxim has been courting affluent young men with branded physical spaces, including a giant casino planned for Las Vegas and a chain of steak houses developed with restaurant mogul Jeffrey Chodorow. The arrival of a new editor in chief seems to have turned around the magazine's ad freefall. November's ad pages are up 26.6% over the same month last year, and total ad pages for the second half of the year are up 3.6%.
For all the talk of moving upscale, it should be noted that the magazines aren't trying to appeal to the smoking jacket-and-cognac set, or those who lust to join its 21st-century equivalent. In an interview with RedEye earlier this month, Jellinek positioned Maxim's readers against GQ's: "I think it's someone who's a lot more honest about themselves than the GQ reader, who is trying to delude themselves into some sort of aspirational lifestyle, completely unattainable. The Maxim lifestyle is attainable for everybody."