Further Evidence: “Why Esquire Magazine Gets It”

The February Brooklyn Decker issue of Esquire Magazine that hit the newsstands this past year was not the smashing success that many, myself included,  thought it would be.  Still  the publisher rightly deserved props and kudos for being brave enough to test interactive features on the iPhone, in Barnes and Noble, and for the “Find the Esquire logo” feature throughout several US cities. In fact, Esquire gets kudos (at least from me) for continually trying stretch the limits of what they can do with their print edition. Beyond that, I give them props for their digital edition on the iPad.

February's Cover Featured Brooklyn Decker in an interactive app for iPhones that was directed at their displays in Barnes and Noble.

This week, while searching the racks for my clients latest releases, Esquire’s “Big Black Book” special caught my eye.

The current issue on display.

‘Cause it’s a “man” thing, it can’t be a “little black book”. But judging by the size of the, ‘um, “package”, this $9.95 SIP (Special Interest Publication, in case you ever wondered what SIP stood for) is a brand extension that is definitely worth the price.

Behind the cover wrap of this edition...

While there’s really nothing all that new about what Esquire is doing, and their “Big Black Book” is five years old, what really captured my interest here was their continued commitment to the production quality of the magazine, the continued desire to experiment with interesting and different covers, and the simple fact that never, ever, do they do the same thing twice.

Esquire “gets” it. That’s why they are still around. That’s why they are successful.

How are you trying to get “it”?

And, did you go to Mr. Magazine’s ACT 2: Restart Your Engines conference this week?

Caption This: So Jesus and Irina Go To The Beach….

One of the many things I like about the book-a-zine trend is the opportunity they create for unique and interesting displays on the mainline. Usually I’m thinking more about Feature Pockets, Counter Top Displays, Pre-Packs and Half Pallets.

But sometimes, juxtaposition will work too.

Here’s a great example: We know that the once weekly magazine US News and World Report is now a series of special interest ‘zines covering the best hospitals, colleges, historical episodes and the like. Sports Illustrated’s weekly magazine is best known these days for their Swimsuit issue. So why not have a “Swimsuit Extra”?

The picture below was sent to me by a colleague who spotted this incredibly creative display while out on a retailer check. You do have to wonder if the merchandiser did this deliberately, or if it was serendipity in action.

Caption this....

Either way, I need to give this merchandiser a well deserved pat on the back.

Here are a few other displays this year that gave me a much needed chuckle:

Display of the Week: Crazy? Crazy Brave? Or Strategically Genius?

Magazine Display of the Week: Success=Harry Potter

Kate and Prince William Vs. The Hackers

Which one of these do you think is the best? And as always, feel free to send me any creative displays you come across and I will happily post them.

Two More Contenders for Best Cover of The Year

Earlier this year I posted on what I thought were the best newsstand covers of 2011 “so far”. Here’s a not so dirty little secret: While us circ. folk do have a check list of what it takes to create a good magazine cover, in the end it’s the first visceral reaction to the cover that determines whether or not we’re going to pay attention to it.

Then again, you probably already knew that.

Once a cover catches my attention, I do go down the check list to see what it was that got me to pay attention: The main image, logo placement and font style. Color, use of cover lines and use of skyline. Are there secondary images and do they make sense? And so on down the line.

Maybe that’s why so often circ. people are barred from the room when the editors and art folk design the covers. They don’t want to hear what we have to say.

Personally I still think the January 2011 Vogue cover featuring Natalie Portman is the best thing we’ve seen so far. And no, it’s not because I like Natalie Portman (although that helps).

January 2011 Vogue Magazine - She gets into the Titanic's life boat.

Over the past few weeks, two other magazines have made me stop, turn around, head back to the rack and snap a pic with my balky pain in the neck ‘droid (the Windows XP of Smart Phones).

May I present for your consideration two more contenders for “Best Cover of 2011” (so far):

September Interview Magazine featuring Anne Hathaway. Turns out they were already in the life boat.

When was the last time anyone paid any attention to Interview Magazine? In the ’90’s we saw a burst of copy cat magazines pop up around the celebrity/fashion/design world and through it all, Interview has survived. Striking cover image? Check! Great use of color? Check, well at least with the logo, but here is a case where B&W will work! Cover lines? Umm, probably too much for my liking, but on most racks, what will grab you is the image of Anne Hathaway behind the lace and the red, red “Interview” logo.

So yes, Interview, I apologize for neglecting you. You are now on my radar. In a very good way!

Rolling Stone Revisits "Dark Side of the Moon" in issue 1141. Will Steve Tyler slide over to make some room?

In theory, Rolling Stone should be another one of those “Whatever Happened To…?” magazines. It’s heyday was way back in the ’60’s and ’70’s and all the Boomers are now heading to the Social Security office. But good editing and design is good editing and design and Rolling Stone still has it. And guess what non-believers? RS saw an increase in circulation in the last ABC report.

You’ll recall that I picked their Steven Tyler issue as a “Top Ten” back in June. Upon review, it remains a contender.

Now we can add this pictorial cover that will not only grab any music fan of a certain age, but is strong enough to reach down and grab any music fan of any age who knows about or is curious about one of the most amazing albums of all time. It’s a fantastic use of the iconic Dark Side of The Moon imagery. The REM mention in the skyline is a great twist on the main cover section (How one band decided to break up, how another struggled). While I’m rarely a fan of yellow in a magazine logo, this works.

So in one week, two things that I am generally skeptical about when it comes to covers: B&W imagery, yellow logos, caused me to turn around, retrace my route, pluck the magazines off the rack, and then fiddle and curse at my ‘droid while I snapped their pics. Once more, may I extend my apologies to the startled B&N employee who I am sure I offended while I was doing that.

So let’s hear it. What are some of your favorite cover images so far this year?

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