MEDIA BRANDS: Glamour proves to be a legitimate advocate for readers by adding substance to its style

In October 1992, the cover of Self featured the simple, stark image of a pink ribbon. By now, it's common knowledge that the symbol of the ribbon was part of an effort to raise awareness of a little-known killer. Not only did that campaign help make mammographies a part of women's health routine, but it helped identify the women's health magazine with a crucial issue. To this day, breast cancer awareness and prevention remains an important part of the magazine's editorial content.

In October 1992, the cover of Self featured the simple, stark image of a pink ribbon. By now, it's common knowledge that the symbol of the ribbon was part of an effort to raise awareness of a little-known killer. Not only did that campaign help make mammographies a part of women's health routine, but it helped identify the women's health magazine with a crucial issue. To this day, breast cancer awareness and prevention remains an important part of the magazine's editorial content.

Eleven years later, Glamour, Self's sister publication and the most popular magazine in Conde Nast's stable, is showing the same initiative with an equally important health problem: women's heart disease. Last week, PRWeek reported on Glamour's role in a major campaign designed to alert Americans to the fact that one in three Americans die from heart disease. The effort, run by Ogilvy PR for National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, has also landed the issue in Time and Prevention. But Glamour, incorporating advocacy journalism into pages better known for dating and fashion tips, is devoting more than a cover story, though it did front with a heart disease piece in October. The editors have made a multi-year commitment that includes a monthly column intended to help readers prevent a disease that's almost completely preventable. This kind of dedication to a single health issue is new to the magazine, says its health director, Wendy Naugle. She says that Glamour has taken up the cause because women in the US, focused as they are on "bikini-zone diseases," must awaken to the perils of heart disease. This wake-up call will likely work because it's cast in the ever-popular grammar of the fashion title. Rather than issue somber warnings, Glamour attacks the problem by keying in on the campaign's central symbol: a red dress. As a symbol, the red dress makes perfect sense. "It symbolizes everything you associate with the heart," says Naugle. "It's sexy and passionate." It's also easy for commercial sponsors to latch on to. The red dresses debuted at Mercedes Benz' Fashion Week in February. And it caught the eye of BeneFit Cosmetics, which is offering a special lipstick, and Swarovski, which is offering a pin. Both are partnering with Glamour, and part of the proceeds go to the American Heart Association. But not everyone is enamored with the red dress. Arguing that because it comes from the fashion world it won't click with overweight women who are most at risk from heart disease, a criticism of the red-dress campaign published in The Washington Post in May missed the point entirely. Fatally literal-minded, the piece ignored the fact, borne out by the sheer popularity of magazines like Glamour and the abundance of celebrity-focused outlets, that Americans pay closest attention to images of what they are not. Getting stars and designers involved is likely to keep eyes on the issue, which is what this campaign is all about. -matthew.creamer@prweek.com

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