Glamour's New Ad Campaign Emphasizes Its Readers Are "American Sweethearts"S

Glamour is launching a sweet, uber-girly advertising campaign that paints its readers as nice, all-American girls. And in another strange move, the mag is holding a retro-sounding "Search for America's Sweetheart" that's also being made into a reality show.

The New York Times reports that though the magazine's circulation numbers are up slightly over the year, its single-copy sales are declining and ad pages were down 20 percent. To draw in new readers and particularly advertisers, the new "Live for Glamour" ads, which feature cupcakes, balloons, yo-yos, American flags, lollipops and margaritas, will be featured on taxis, billboards, and projected onto New York City stores tomorrow to coincide with the start of Fashion Week. Though ads will run in mainstream magazines, the campaign is more focused on refreshing advertisers' idea of the type of woman who reads Glamour, so print ads will run in industry publications like Women's Wear Daily, Drug Store News and Cosmetic World. The magazine will also ship actual cupcakes that say "Live for Glamour" to the offices of advertising clients and hand out cupcakes under the tents during fashion week.

Glamour's image of its readers is surprising, as the cupcake-baking, All-American imagery seem like something Sterling Cooper executives would have come up with during a product-placement heavy scene on Mad Men. Other ads in the campaign include cliche phrases like "she'll steal your shoes, but never your boyfriend," and, "she commits to her political party, but never just one lipstick." Considering Glamour is aimed at adult women, the pink, perky ads are surprisingly infantilizing. They emphasize that while the magazine's readers aren't particularly mature, like teenagers, they have a disposable income they're ready to spend on shoes, makeup, or anything else fashion and beauty brands may want to push.

"Clearly it's exuberantly cheerful, aggressively cheerful," says Cindi Leive, editor-in-chief of Glamour. "This says very clearly that this is not a magazine that's trying to be Vogue." In other words, rather than competing with more upscale fashion magazines for the high-end brands aimed at more sophisticated readers, Glamour readers are just "nice girls" who will buy more middle of the road products. "We're Jennifer Aniston, but we may never be Angelina," adds Bill Wackermann, the magazine's senior vice president and publishing director.

In conjunction with the new ads, the magazine will be running a "Search for America's Sweetheart" contest, with the winner appearing on the cover of Glamour in 2010. According to Leive, the contest is "not about being the blonde, blue-eyed, superdeluxe picture of perfection," but a "real woman". We understand that Leive means the winner won't necessarily fit the traditional image of "America's sweetheart," as we discussed earlier today, but then why use the outdated word "sweetheart" at all?

It's also unclear why Glamour needs to create a competition to find a cover model in the first place, since the magazine already has several competitions that recognize "real women." The annual Top 10 College Women competition, for one, evaluates contestants based on "leadership experience, personal involvement in community and campus affairs, and academic excellence," according to the entry form. And last year's "Women of the Year" honorees included many "real women" making a difference, including Kara Walker, Jane Goodall, and Condoleeza Rice; perhaps they don't really fit the "sweetheart" stereotype?

Not surprisingly, Glamour is in talks to turn the contest into a reality show, as it is one of the few women's fashion magazines without one. But Leive says her show will be different because, "This isn't taking place in our offices, it's not about who can push the fashion rack the fastest." Instead "America's sweetheart" will be determined by how well the contestants offer strangers compliments or confront a guy who broke up with them in high school. Despite what Leive says, competitions based on being nice to others and being obsessed with who you were in high school don't exactly shatter our image of what makes a "sweetheart."

Such characteristics do however fit the persona the tabloid media has created for Jennifer Aniston; in fact, it makes sense that Glamour execs want advertisers to think of their readers as Aniston rather than an Angelina-types; after all, a woman regularly described as lonely, unlucky in love, and obsessed with her looks is far more likely to splurge on beauty and fashion products.

Glamour Puts On A Happy Face To Attract Ads [N.Y. Times]
Enter Glamour's Top 10 College Women Competition [Glamour]
Glamour Women Of The Year 2008 [Glamour]

Earlier: What Does "America's Sweetheart" Really Mean?