02 April 2013

AARP Is All New Redux: Part III (The Magazine)

There is a slow overhaul of AARP Magazine going on, no doubt for the better.

http://www.tech4pub.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/myrna_blyth-e1351086985905-150x150.jpgWhile not privy to the changes, I do know that Myrna Blyth, former editor/publisher of a slew of top-notch magazines (Ladies’ Home Journal, Family Circle, More, and even more) is now Editorial Director of AARP Media.  AARP can’t do much better than that.

Dustin Hoffman Feb/Mar 2013 CoverI won’t comment on the content of AARP Magazine over the last ten years. I will comment on the advertising.

A post from 2007:

Positioning Magazines for Baby Boomers
There are active and passive parts of our day. Without getting into too much psychobabble, as you get older the passive side needs more nourishment. It’s not really passive. It’s focused absorption. At some point you have to climb out of your frenetic digital nest and concentrate on one thing. It might be reading a book, watching a TV show or movie, listening to music, looking out the window.

Or immersing yourself in a magazine.

This isn’t ‘down time’ (that would be sleeping), but nourishing your psyche by absorbing and not actively being involved in what you’re doing.

From another post:

An attractive magazine arriving in the mail gets your attention.  It hangs out on the table, inviting you to do some easy, restful leafing – at least until recycle day rolls around.

What makes AARP Magazine unattractive: The Ads.  They’re ugly, and the subtext is always “You’re old and sick.”  Who wants to leaf through such icky stuff over and over in every issue? 

While it’s a freebie with your AARP enrollment, and 37 million copies are mailed, something tells me that a very large chunk of people simply toss their copies.  One of the reasons: They don’t want to see the ads.  They don’t want to see only ugly ads about how old or sick they might or might not be – or even worse, might be someday:


I counted one non-age/malady ad in the February/March issue – for Bose audio


16 September 2009
Boomer Backlash II
Why couldn’t it have been a car?  Laundry soap?  Baked Beans? Gender-specific razors? Aluminum foil? Anything but some age-related malady.

Add to all this something everybody knows already:  Readers devour magazines not only for editorial but for advertisements. They look forward to makeup and fashion ads, car ads, home-improvement ads, smartphone/tablet/tech ads.  Did I leave any out? 

For specialty magazines, ads are even more appreciated: Mechanics, DIY items, automobile enhancements, exercise equipment, crafts, cooking, travel.  Did I leave any out?

I have a tough time believing that anybody rifles through AARP Magazine excitedly looking for the latest in hearing aids and stair-lifts.  

Advice for AARP Magazine:

Sure, your media folks have a tough sell. And they know it and do their best:

http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2012/07/19/business/ADCO-1/ADCO-1-popup.jpgA new campaign aimed at advertisers themselves features people in their 50s and early 60s, and argues that brands should be focusing on them, not people ages 18 to 34…

Dump the shotgun approach and suck them in. Plan an issue with no age/malady related ads allowed and one-time only rates advertisers can’t refuse. Practically give the ad pages away. 

Lose lots of money with this issue, but fill it up with beautiful, sumptuous, high-quality ads for Cars, Swiffer Dusters, Vacation Packages from whomever, Laundry Soap, Fashion Items (did I read something recently about J. Jill?), Warby Parker, Ikea, Smartphones, Tablets, Apple, Microsoft.  Did I leave any out?

Make it up to the age/malady advertisers by giving them discounts for the following six issues. 

imageOf course, I would leave editorial in the expert hands of Ms. Blyth and others – but might suggest this: For one issue, no articles about being old or sick. 

Put those aspirational TV spots aside for a month and toss up a few about this special issue of AARP Magazine (without really saying what’s so special about it).  Make sure advertisers know that you plan to promote the issue with a national television campaign.

My Bet: AARP Media will attract more major advertisers. 

For reference:

21 March 2013
AARP Is All New Redux: Part I
AARP is ‘rebranding’ itself for the umpteenth time.

27 March 2013
AARP Is All New Redux: Part II
AARP will also step up its efforts to help businesses develop “their 50-plus strategy”…