[Good Housekeeping’s target audience is ABC1; women with interests and a reasonable educational background. / Range of adverts includes loo cleaner, kitchen furniture, skin creams and food comprises 4/9ths of the pages.]
Advertising covers the costs nowadays and this is why mags are very careful to target very closely their audience to maximise advertising interest, and likewise advertisers are keen to maximise their coverage for the minimum costs.
Brands including Estee Lauder, Principles, Phase 8, Marina Rinaldi, Bosch and Chanel vie with Matalan, Wall’s, Pantene Pro V, Tescos and Clarks for attention. The Good Housekeeping woman is represented as driving the new Peugeot 1007, or Nissan Micra, is a Neff Domestic Goddess, enjoys guilty treats like Galaxy or less guilty ones like Fox’s Low Fat Biscuit Bars.
The cover photo, this month of Jane Fonda, is the usual lure to hook the customer into buying the magazine and the editor’s choice this month was a calculated risk. The cover is the most important part of the magazine since in the UK 70% of magazines are sold on impulse and sold on their covers hence the usual cover model is young and attractive with their looks enhanced by digital manipulation. Jane Fonda was a different choice not only because of her age, 67, but because she asked for her picture not to be subjected to the usual air-brushing and blemish removing procedures. Despite this Jane Fonda is a role model to younger women, beautiful in her own right, an icon for various conservation measures, and has done her bit to break out of the traditional female mould – so it really wasn’t much of a gamble!
Inside, the magazine really plays up the positive angle of each of the ages featured, from the youngest, 18, through each decade from 20s up to 70s with Nanette Newman. Good Housekeeping really does seem to want to make its readers feel good about themselves; all the stories are up beat and positive, no dwelling on the tragedy of some stories unlike magazines like Best and More. Whereas most women’s magazines are aspirational, this one has elements of this e.g. adverts like L’Oreal’s anti-ageing kit all three pages of it, much of the time it seems to be representing its audience in very positive even self-satisfied terms. It even caters for those women at the larger end of the spectrum, discreetly, by e.g. Marina Rinaldi: To Be: A New Woman from 12-28. There really is an effort to make age seem unimportant, with advertorials like ‘7 Ages
Of Beauty,‘ which tells the reader, ‘You’ve always been gorgeous. It’s just that you didn’t always realise it!’ and the promotion of ideal products for each age group from teens through 20s to the 70s again, where ‘Silver is stunning – yes, really!’
Another representation of women comes from the apparent necessity of stable hetero-sexual relationships e.g. there’s the real life section about moving in together: these women are all encouraged not to be territorial; to enjoy decorating and gardening. The nesting instinct is strongly favoured (even while promoting the idea of a career), while for those without a partner match.com can ‘make love happen.’
Also extolling the virtues of happy, healthy family lives this magazine features regular articles from experts like Prue Leith cooking with young chefs and despite ads which, with their attractive, steely gleaming, clean metallic lines, like those of Clinique and L’Oreal’s Renoviste, suggest to the contrary, most of the advice featured strongly recommends simply keeping fit to prevent the problems of ageing!
Ads featuring celebrities are a low priority here; Eva Longoria’s sultry L’Oreal Elvive ad being a rarity. Most of the women featured in the ads are not the usual young 20s, flawless fashion models you’d find in the pages of Cosmopolitan and She; she does look good but the odd wrinkle line is allowed and most of these models are a bit older, more realistic!
Life-affirming and upbeat Good Housekeeping has moved with the times; no longer just catering to the stay-at-home, submissive woman, as represented in the Woman’s Own idea of articles in the 1930s ‘ Don’t let yourself go,’ or ‘Wear a pretty overall,’ and ‘prepare your lord and master’s breakfast.’ Like Cosmo its message is that now women can have it all: a husband, home, family and career! And she can successfully balance those different commitments with the help of this magazine. Yet by implication this successful woman has a perfectly ordered, tidy life in which everything works like clock work – which is perhaps still an aspiration for some women! However, Good Housekeeping, implicitly offers its help to manage women’s lives without fuss because within its glossy pages are all the necessary handy hints, or time-saving appliances to help achieve that ‘goddess’ status and not just in the ‘domestic‘ sphere that Neff advertises.
The articles featured indicate that the reader looks on the bright side of life, revels in the success of others, loves chocolate but knows she shouldn’t (see the Thornton’s ad which uses words like: obsession; intoxicating; seductive; and the new brand is Eden!); she likes solid dependable products like Brabantia breads bins, has a family and probably pets judging by the Iams, Pedigree Chum and Sheba ads.
The tone is which the reader is addressed is informal rather than colloquial or slang English. It avoids coarse language and even in an interview with Jo Brand cleans up her notoriously descriptive vocabulary, including only one swear word and that substituted by *** !It has overtones of ironic humour, a confiding and honest
written in the first person but always referring to the reader as ‘you’. Giving advice, encouraging caution and flexibility, this magazine really is a manual for how to be everything: a good wife, mother, daughter, step-mother, grandmother, friend and even boss! It encourages roundness of character and the values of learning, literature and the arts, advertising Cheltenham’s Literature Festival and Creative Writing Courses.
Good housekeeping woman is a multi-tasker (AEG cleverly boasting ‘At the touch of a button you can enjoy two programmes at once,‘) who leads a busy life probably not always allowing time for herself, so there’s an article on exercising while you do other things like lifting weights (tins of beans) while cooking, and an ad for Nescafe Gold Blend proclaiming ‘Live life to the full, the half and the decaf!‘
she wants sensible, value for money advice on insurances of different kinds and should be reassured by the advice for most which is ‘Don’t bother!’ She is concerned about the environment hence no ads for large people carriers but ads for recycled glass and recycling in general, she wants energy efficient appliances and she likes fashion but rather than high end designers (though there are some like Van Dal or Hobbs shoes £110 and Coccinelle gloves for £70!) the majority of fashion is high street classics like John Lewis, Principles, Dorothy Perkins, Lands End and Boots.
This is a magazine with an elegant simplicity; like Red Magazine with its high production values, its glossy high-quality pages have easily accessible, reasonably unfussy, uncluttered flash panels and boxes with clean lines and large bold fonts. Everything comes together to complement the aim of the magazine to make life easy for women who want the best out of life with a little less effort. There are still the traditional recipes, which encourage her to freeze ahead for winter, some of which they claim ‘can’t go wrong,’ or ‘add spice to life,’ or are suitable for vegetarians. Each has its nutritional panel so she can be sure it’s healthy. This woman is organised or wishes she was, with lots of suggestions for planning ahead and for the other end of the readership spectrum a section on ‘student grub.’
This woman likes style and simplicity, elegance and cosiness, traditional values and modern lines; she likes to travel to exotic places (Thailand / Andalucia (not just Spain!)), to do unusual things like working with lions as well as the usual country pursuits like horse riding; she’s a city dweller who loves the country or a countrywoman who visits cities for pleasure.
This edition has a special feature article on women who’ve recovered from major reconstructive surgery following breast cancer, but again it’s all very upbeat and positive and unusually for a magazine like this they’ve all agreed to be photographed topless, not in an exploitative way nor as confirming the Male Gaze Theory but in a way designed to banish the fears and ignorance which surround difficult subjects like this.
All in all this is a magazine which is unusual; it is still an aspirational magazine (unlike men’s where men are encouraged to be themselves and to be satisfied with who and what they are), yet it is a tonic, a feel good mag which isn’t ashamed to delved into difficult areas but manages to find the positive in them. Where so many of the other women’s lifestyle magazines relish and wallow in the negative, the awful, tragic or downright embarrassing stories of other people’s lives in order to allow the readers to feel somewhat superior, good Housekeeping encourages women to bond, to empathise and appreciate what some women have gone through. It also avoids dictating to women through the use of imperatives like ‘Get…’ ‘Be…’as some mags do. Though presenting women still in stereotypical ways, there are many different stereotypes within its pages. Fulfilling the roles of confidante and agony aunt, this magazine can be a woman’s best friend.