Posted tagged ‘ad placement’

Saveur magazine not well-done

March 4, 2008

OK, I bought Saveur today hoping to see some kick-ass food photography and layouts but was disappointed by what I found. The opening contents page is beautiful, it has a page width column of text introducing the whole issue (devoted to butter, yet no mention of Marlon Brando), and a traditional table of contents style layout below it.
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Then we move on to the front of book content and things start to get dicey. It’s not the magazine looks bad – it doesn’t – but rather that it feels like there was one template made for a front of book section and it just got used for everything. I’m all about consistency but I also believe in mixing things up a bit while maintaining consistency, to keep everything fresh, but here it feels kind of stale and less art directed, more production department. The mixture of almost elegant photography and mish-mash of fonts leaves me feeling a little confused. For example, the opener of the ‘Fare’ section is a full page photo of a traditional feast bread in the shape of a staff. The photo itself is ok, but it has to compete with the thick font used for the section header running across it in yellow, as well as an ugly block of text with equally ugly red-boxed drop cap and badly hyphenated body-copy. There’s so little text on here and what is there is so distractingly ugly that it brings the whole page to a crashing halt. On its own, and reduced in size to not compete with ‘Fare’, the photo would have been a striking opening to this section but instead it’s merely blah. Infuriatingly, it’s also been placed opposite a full-page ad with a striking resemblance layout wise to the ‘Fare’ photo opener. Is this deliberate? Am I going crazy, or does this just look bad and detract even more from the editorial? I know placement is important to advertisers, but Jebus!

Here’s some more of the templated look I mention above… some of it is kind of hard to figure out where to look first. The photography here also seems to be somewhat middle of the road. It’s not bad, but after being spoiled by the likes of Gourmet and bon appétit, you can’t help feeling somewhat let down by some of the images in here. They feel like just a little more work on the lighting, some more time on the color correction, and they’d have worked. But right now they neither make want to eat the food or spend much time looking at it.
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There’s also a lot of stuff crammed into the spine (like the Russia layout above), or spread across the spine, further muddling an already busy and wishy-washy layout. The opening spread to the whole butter feature well is completely underwhelming. The spine pulls the headline into the fold, as well as the deck which is made amost unreadable unless you pull the magazine tight on either side to open it right up. The mixture of photography on this spread again does nothing to compel or interest, and huge variations in quality of lighting, and little variation in composition of photography makes the whole page just blah. Turning over to the next spread, we’re greeted with a full-page picture of a cow opposite a full-page of text. Again, you can see what they were trying to do with a quirky cow photo, but none of the ingredients are right – cropping, composition, layout, colors, are all just there, nothing leaps out and grabs you, and nothing makes you want to read on. Even the bodycopy font is boring, badly hyphenated and awkwardly spaced, it looks slightly too large. The headline, deck and drop cap/intro paragraph are all competeing with one another to be the most bland, and the page as a whole comes across as dull.
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Finally, I wanted to show this spread as a perfect example of a missed opportunity. It’s a spread on ’30 Great Butters’, and cotains a photo of each in its wrapper, almost all consistently shot, and each accompanied by 40 or so words describing its taste and origin. Graphically it’s almost interesting, but there’s something so…half-assed about the intro copy on the top left and the justifed blurbs below each image. I feel like I’m just being mean now, but it feels like this page could have had so much visual impact and have been made a lot more interesting to spend some time looking at. Shorter blurbs to accompany each image would be a start, and maybe a more imaginative arrangement of the butter packs themselves, while still remaining individually recognisable for shoppers.

Portfolio magazine makes me hungry, temporarily forget how fat I am

February 29, 2008

The cover of February’s Portfolio magazine has an enormous, disgusting and incredibly tasty looking burger covering almost the entire cover. The cover story (‘How Fat Won’) is a really interesting piece on american fast food and the attitude of the fast food manufacturers toward the consumer. I love that the cover story used more shots of the burger, the burger ingredients and fries and grease stains as a drop cap! And I’m worried at how much I want to taste that burger.
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Moving back to the front of the book, there are 4 contents pages. There’s nice use of white space, compelling photography, clear labeling and easy to read fonts. The first three pages are used for features, columns and some other sections labelled ‘Culture Inc.’ and ‘In Play’. The fourth is a website contents page, whose layout is significantly different from the first three, which makes me wonder what is the benefit of making this page look so different from the print content pages? Is it so the reader doesn’t immediately assume that they are reading a fourth page of print content? Or is it because they don’t promote as much of the site’s content because it’s going to update and change so much throughout the print mag’s month-long shelf-life?
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Also, the contributor’s section is placed between two left and right hand half-page vertical ads… and are given a very generous amount of space considering how little actual information there is there. But definitely a unique idea for this type of page.

There are a lot of infographics in here (yes, I’d include the Britney Spears double-spread as an infographic – it’s just text-driven and relies on photography instead of vector-graphics), and they don’t seem to have one particular style they’ve settled on, unlike other Condé Naste publications such as Traveler. But that doesn’t take away from the look of the magazine in the slightest, in fact it seems to add a fun, lighter feeling as you flick through, and makes you stop more than once to find out what you’re looking at. Unfortunately there are a couple of occassions where an advertisement on the opposite page to a graphically driven layout or infographic is very similar in use of white space or floating elements and completely detracts from what would otherwise have been a very interesting page (see the ‘Calendar’ page below as an example, or the ‘Back Story’ page). I face similar problems with every issue of our magazine as we don’t place the ads here in-house and frequently don’t know what the ads look like until we see bluelines. We’re working on changing this slowly, but the big fight isn’t going to be changing our process, it’s going to be convincing the advertisers to change the way their ads look.
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