Achtung Mode asked Max Mara's publicity major domo on his visions and predicitons for the future of fashion journalism in all its forms
Few luxury communication directors are more respected – and more popular – than Giorgio Guidotti, the strictly dressed and sharply tongued press and publicity major domo of Max Mara. As someone who oversees a media plan taking well over 1,500 ad pages globally each year as well as major investments in everything from digital to billboards he is someone as much feared by publishers as loved by editors. Known not only a major investor in media, in all its forms, but also as an admirer and lover of great magazines and quality journalism, we caught up with Giorgio Guidotti to hear his vision and predictions for the future of our industry and most specifically fashion journalism in all its forms.
“Personally, I think the first thing we all must recognize is that modern magazines are desperately trying to find a way into the future. For 100 years they had a simple business model that depended on circulation and revenues. Then, their publishers fought with each other for pages from designers and other brands. However, today, they have been so busy attempting to transform them selves that they keep on forgetting something very important – their own DNA!”, says Giorgio Guidotti. Due to the existence of a rather wellknown fashion designer in Italy with the first name of Giorgio, mostly everyone refers to this communications tsar by his full moniker – Giorgio Guidotti.
“Sometimes, as a client, I meet editors or publishers or their CEOs and they no longer talk about their brands. They just mouth on about what they call ‘digital service and online content’”, groans our Giorgio, whose exact title is VP Worldwide Communication & PR for the Max Mara Fashion Group. “It’s as if they were trying to become production houses and movie producers and video filmmakers without trying to fix the base of their brand. Now, I sense as a client, a little bit of panic. I mean everywhere. There is this fight to survive and another fight to get budgets back. But the reality for magazines is that budgets all became lower due to this entire new media. And that is not going to change,” sighs the bespectacled executive, who splits his time between Max Mara’s regional headquarters in Reggio Emilia, Milan and New York, where he has a charming apartment close to the Chrysler Building that has been much photographed by the better interior magazines.
“Come on. I am too old of a cat to be screwed by a kitten!”
Does Signor Guidotti believe there has been too much emphasis on web? “Of course, new media is important. People think it is much more global, obsessionally so. It’s as if the next market will be the moon or Mars! The view is, that paper and billboards are local and the web is global. Let’s say an average magazine reaches 50,000 readers, the web can reach a million. But I certainly don’t think that that means the latter is 20 times better. Come on. I am too old of a cat to be screwed by a kitten!” It is true, he is no spring chicken, rather an avuncular fashion expert. In 1992, Signor Guidotti became a member of the Board of the Camera della Moda, Italian fashion’s governing body. From September 2004 to April 2013 he had been its Vice President.
What then of the oldest media of all – bill boards? “In the old days, billboards were a sad market except for Mr. Armani, who practically owned Milan thanks to that Emporio ad in Linate. Think of how many people have seen that – millions and millions. Now everyone uses billboards as they are a great way to show your product. That’s true from China to New York. They are very effective and, again that means for magazines, this is another slice of the budget that is gone.”
“Media today is all about surrounding the consumer. You give him or her the chance to find your product on the web, iPad or whatever. Paper is another slice of that surrounding”, explains the communications expert. It turns out a very large slice is still in paper. Guidotti would not give exact numbers on his media spend. Max Mara’s founders and owners, the Maramotti family, are generous patrons, but tightfisted when it comes to financial information. However, considering that Italian brands of the reach of Max Mara invest a rough average of four percent of their turnover in communications and events bud gets and that last year Max Mara had annual sales of some 1.3 billion, that would mean Giorgio has about 40 million euros to play with annually. Nice work if you can get it.
“When you buy a magazine you want great images and great journalism. The simple fact is that not all titles will survive. Some will go to the wall. The ones that survive will do so only if they have an identity.”
He breaks down his spending in the following way: 50 percent in magazines, 15 per cent in newspapers, 25 percent in web and ten percent on outdoors. Though he does caution: “It’s hard to be too exact about the exact breakdown. We don’t really plan all year ahead anymore as we have noticed and realized that some media just won’t survive the whole year!” Wherever he goes, Guidotti, whose studies took him from his home town of Reggio Emilia to Cambridge to study literature, follows fashion media avidly. “I don’t believe that young people don’t look at magazines. I think they love great magazines. Young people just don’t like obsolete ones – magazines that pretend to be printed websites with graphics. When you buy a magazine you want great images and great journalism. The simple fact is that not all titles will survive. Some will go to the wall. The ones that survive will do so only if they have an identity. I feel as an investor lots of panic attacks from publishers since no one has worked out a winning formula.”
Does he believe that the big gorilla on the block, Condé Nast, is overemphasizing digital? “I think, Condé Nast have been working hard on digital and finding their way. They have presented plenty of projects, like every other big media group. I think that American Vogue has been able to become a reference. There is the sort of content I want to see – fresh, fun with trends and people in the in dustry or not”, opines Guidotti, who does not extend the same positivism towards bloggers. “Bloggers are a phenomena of the last few years. A few are influential but a lot are just kids along for a free ride. A few thousand people like their pictures but most of them are not influential. In fact, I’d say that many of these bloggers have become almost out casts. No one actually wants to be called a blogger. They all want to be called influencers. Can you imagine!”, he snorts.
“In my view, one must never forget that the key to success is making a beautiful object.”
Does he have any advice for publishers? “I meet them all the time and they need to believe in their own product more, and they should insist above all that their editors do a great job. And they should use great paper and only take great ads. That is what makes us happy. In my view, one must never forget that the key to success is making a beautiful object.”
First published in Achtung Mode Issue #31