To magazine readers, scent is a real issue


Call it the War of the Noses -- all those competing perfumed strips in magazine ads.

Or call it the War on Noses, as some magazine readers do, nostrils twitching, eyes smarting and ires rising.

"A very noxious and pervacious [sic] odor invaded this house with the mail today," wrote Franklin Heller of Stamford, Conn., to the New Yorker last June. "Much to our surprise, it came from the arriving copy of the New Yorker."

"I think it is supposed to be connected with an advertisement for perfume, but it is hardly attractive," Mr. Heller wrote. "I am an elderly asthmatic, allergic to perfume, and, although I have retched occasionally at some material in the New Yorker, I never vomited on it before."

Reached Friday, however, Mr. Heller praised the magazine, saying that as far as he could tell, it no longer carried perfumed strips.

Actually, this week's New Yorker carries the first perfumed strip since the one that offended Mr. Heller last year.

With this same issue, however, the New Yorker joins a small number of magazines in providing scent-free issues to subscribers who are offended by fragrances or allergic to them.

People magazine in its April 27 issue, for instance, ran a box on its Letters page titled "Just Say No." The box provided an "800" telephone number for subscribers who prefer copies without perfumed strips.

Ann S. Moore, the publisher, said the box would run whenever an issue of People included a perfumed insert.

"We do it as a reader service," she said. "We have total personalization available at all our printing plants. It is very simple to identify a single subscriber and then tailor the magazine to them."

For Mirabella, which also ran a notice telling subscribers that they could receive scent-free copies, it is a more expensive production.

"The ads are supplied inserts, so we just produce issues in which we don't slip in that insert," said Rebecca Darwin, the publisher.

Although the volume of complaints about perfumed ads is low, publishers do take them seriously. For magazines without the proper technology, sending out separate issues is very expensive and slows down delivery.

Publishers said it was impossible to estimate the cost of sending out scent-free copies, in which the same ad appears minus the strip.

"It costs a fortune for publishers to do, and it is completely uneconomic," said Michael Pashby, senior vice president for circulation at the Magazine Publishers of America.

Other magazines that send scent-free copies on request include, Harper's Bazaar, House Beautiful, Town & Country and Victoria, all published by Hearst Magazines. Conde Nast, on the other hand, does not offer scent-free versions of its magazines.

Indeed, Kathy Leventhal, publisher of Allure, said a survey of her subscribers showed that 60 percent had bought a fragrance as a result of a perfumed strip in a magazine.

Camille McDonald, vice president of marketing for Ralph Lauren fragrances at Cosmair Inc., said her company's research indicated that 76 percent of women buying a fragrance said they had been introduced to it by a magazine.

"It is the overwhelmingly most efficient method of getting the product to the broadest possible audience," she said. "There is no equally efficient way of reaching an audience of, say, 2 million like Glamour's."

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