IHT Premieres Luxury Ad Forum

Hoping to offer advertisers a forum unprecedented in both reach and exclusivity, the International Herald Tribune (IHT) yesterday announced the debut of a luxury goods ad marketplace. The marketplace, slated to appear on Thursdays on page three of the newspaper, is modeled after The New York Times' page-A3 luxury ad franchise.

The move, one of the first joint Times/IHT marketing initiatives since The New York Times Company completed its purchase of the IHT, is designed to offer even more extensive reach for A3 mainstays like Burberry and Versace, both of which have already signed up for the new program. "We're trying to provide a true global buying opportunity," says IHT senior vice president and commercial director Stephen Dunbar Johnson. "It's the most obvious area, we thought, to kick off our global arrangement with The New York Times."

Adds Jyll Holzman, senior vice president/advertising at The New York Times: "The International Herald Tribune has historically had a strong appeal to luxury goods advertisers, as has The New York Times. Based on the demand we have experienced for our pages two, three and four franchise positions, we felt that now was an opportune time to expand our strong franchise to the IHT."



Citing the European economic slowdown as well as the SARS scare, Johnson admits that the European luxury goods market has slowed in 2003. He notes, on the other hand, that products like Movado watches and Gucci bags will always appeal to the audience that the IHT and the Times tends to attract.

"Our readers are frequent travelers and they consume media in a very particular way," Johnson explains. "They have a relationship with the International Herald Tribune that's different from [the one they have with] most other publications. It's part of their day and they trust it."

Of course, it isn't like big-name Times advertisers aren't used to getting in front of an audience that Holzman calls "unduplicated, influential, sophisticated and affluent." Thus it is the IHT's extensive reach that will likely prove the primary attraction for would-be advertisers.

Launching the new marketplace has not been without its challenges. Johnson expresses mild frustration that many advertisers budget their spending on a market-by-market basis. "Most don't have a pan-regional allowance, which means that decisions take slightly longer than we'd like," he explains. "They have to figure out where the money is going to come from."

He also acknowledges that European advertisers haven't been as quick as their U.S. counterparts to embrace the concept of a "franchise position" at the front of the paper. "There's no question in my mind that they'll come around," he says. "It's just a matter of laying out the benefits to them and helping them get their heads around it."

When asked for best- and worst-case scenarios for the IHT's luxury goods marketplace over the next year, Holzman and Johnson are predictably bullish. "The opportunity exists to expand this marketplace to a daily basis," Holzman says. "We would like to see every luxury goods advertiser that distributes in Europe and Asia."

Johnson, on the other hand, jokingly presents two all-or-nothing scenarios: "Worst-case? We don't sell any ads. Best-case is that I make the editor's life a nightmare by asking him to give me more and more space," he laughs. "That wouldn't help the tension between the edit and ad sides, but it would make my day."

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