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For a Well-Coiffed, Captive Audience

February 25, 1988|JOHN GABREE

"One picture is worth a thousand words," as the old saying goes. Today, translated into dollar equivalents, however, it well might be that one picture is worth $21 billion. That's the amount spent annually by U.S. consumers in beauty salons. And that's the market targeted by an unusual new magazine out of Glendale.

Cameo, which arrived in January, is a high-quality, oversized, 48-page bimonthly collection of black-and-white and color photographs only occasionally annotated with minimalist text. And we mean oversized: At 11 inches by 15 inches, Cameo is nearly twice the size of the standard periodical.

The magazine is the brainchild of Daniel Nicolas and L.A. artist/designer Manuel Gonzalez. When Nicolas was distributing a Paris-based international hair design catalogue, Metamorphose, to American beauty parlors, he noticed that the magazine's even-larger format (11 1/2 by 16 inches) attracted the attention of the captive audience queued for cuts and pinned under dryers. But, without advertising or editorial copy and with a cover price of $35, Metamorphose had its limitations. Further research uncovered an even bigger rival, the gargantuan (12 by 18 inches) Tokyo-based, English-language Passion, also without text beyond photographer and stylist credits, and with an even stiffer $40 cover price.

Nicolas and Gonzalez believed that a similar U.S.-based magazine, reasonably priced, with some editorial content and supported by advertising, would find an enthusiastic audience. They decided to "break the rules of the business," as Nicolas puts it, by introducing "a high-concept, audience-targeted publication" that was "both a trade and a consumer magazine."

Cameo's first issue includes profiles of Beverly Hills hairdresser Gene Shacove and the Scottish hairdressing duo of Irvine and Rita Rusk, a five-page fashion spread, and a gallery of hair style photographs. This is probably one instance where readers won't mind that the advertisements, 22 pages of hair and beauty product plugs, are virtually indistinguishable from the editorial pages.

Cameo took a relatively short period from May conception to January birth. In July the founders brought in magazine consultant and writers' agent Andrew Ettinger as editorial director.

The partners spent a "a long, hot and sweaty summer" trying to raise money and sell advertising.

"We knew we had a valid marketing and publishing premise," Ettinger said, "but we didn't have the usual Madison Avenue image paraphernalia, fancy Beverly Hills offices, or a fat checkbook."

What they had was three guys working out of a warehouse office in Glendale, what the editor calls "a classic shoestring, bootstrap start-up."

Many Readers Per Issue

It is too early to tell whether their entrepreneurial zeal will pay off. Readers, and advertisers already in the book, are giving Cameo high marks. The problem is that the big ad agencies are used to thinking of one or several readers per issue of a magazine.

"Our pass-along figures are astronomical," Nicolas said. "Think of it. We distributed 50,000 copies. As a quarterly, you calculate we have 40 working days of life. If it's picked up by two people a day times 40 times 50,000, that means very conservatively 4 million people see an issue."

The small first printing was sent to beauty salons with five or more employees in affluent neighborhoods using lists based on Metamorphose's distribution roster or supplied by the advertisers. The salons will receive the first three issues free, after which the cover price is $6. Charter subscribers at $18 a year are promised the same rate until the year 2000.

"We know we have the best magazine on the block," said Nicolas. "Because of Cameo's size and quality, it's always the first to be picked up. What's better, to have a magazine with millions of copies or a magazine with millions of readers?"

New Yorker at 63

Happy 63rd birthday to the New Yorker. New editor Robert Gottlieb may have made some people (mostly staffers) nervous by bringing in new blood (such as Jonathan Kozol writing on the homeless and William Grieder whose study of the Federal Reserve was one of the most important pieces of journalism last year) and reviving the TV, press, and pop music columns, but the anniversary issue gives no cause for alarm.

Eustace Tilley graced last week's cover as usual, and stories and articles by Garrison Keillor, Bobbie Ann Mason, John Updike (on Benjamin Franklin) and the indefatigable John McPhee ("The Control of Nature: Volcano--Part One") could have run anytime in the last 10 years. . . . Spy gets less parochial with each issue. March introduces a new column of inside dope about the film industry called "Rolling Heads," charts Hollywood's support for the men who would be President, profiles PR maven Bobby Zarem, visits Milan's high-fashion world for a "thoroughly seamy, delightfully sordid tale" of sex and murder, exposes "the peculiar, sex-starved, high-IQ world of Mensa," and offers a timely and much-needed consumer guide to Filofax, Day Runner and other Life-style Management Systems.

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