Fashion is a multi-billion dollar industry that relies on millions of people around the world to make it run. And I have to admit, even as a lover of fashion, I am clueless as to what exactly many of these people do, and how they all interact to form the streamlined machine that keeps me lusting after -and buying- my clothes.
As someone who pours over fashion websites on a daily, I am curious about the intersection of publishing and fashion. As more and more of our fashion media consumption moves online, publishers must come up with new and interesting ways to make money. This seemed like an interesting frontier to explore, so I decided to chat with Judith Heimowitz, the Integrated Marketing Director at Buzzmedia, to learn about the business of online fashion sites.
What is your job title and where have you worked?
I’m the Integrated Marketing Director at Buzzmedia. Previously I worked in digital marketing at InStyle.com, and before that I was in ad sales for GQ Magazine.
What exactly do you do?
It’s my job to come up with innovative, custom marketing programs for advertisers. I work with sales reps and clients to learn advertisers’ objectives, and then create digital marketing programs that will help advertisers reach those objectives. I can leverage Buzzmedia’s brilliant editors and bloggers and their access to celebrities in the music, fashion, and entertainment industries. I also work on elevating the whole company’s marketing efforts through new programs like editorial series, live events, or philanthropic partnerships. All of these programs create new opportunities for advertisers to partner with us.
What is a typical day like?
Digital media is an extremely demanding and fast-paced industry so I really have to be ready for anything. I meet with the sales team and the campaign managers to brainstorm ideas for campaigns, write presentations, maybe go with the sales team to present the ideas in person, go to internal meetings to talk about new initiatives, read a ton of competitive websites and blogs, read the trades, and more.
It seems because publishing is changing so drastically, it seems like you are in a great position in your career to be part of a growing industry. What are your thoughts on the shift to online journalism and your place in it?
The new ways that people consume media – pictures, text, audio, and video at once, trust groups of people instead of one at a time – are making a huge impact on how advertisers reach their target audience. For advertisers it’s getting harder to 1) cut through the clutter, and 2) prove that you are a trusted source. It’s all about being creative and authentic. Since I have worked in both traditional and new media I have great experience and perspective on how, as a publisher, I can help advertisers evolve their marketing strategies.
How did you come into this line of work, what did you study in school? Was this your original career path?
I got my BBA from the University of Michigan, and I started heading to the finance world. I soon learned that it was not for me. After a little soul searching I landed a job as a sales assistant at GQ Magazine, and I was psyched. The people were great, the work was interesting, and I loved the business side of something creative and fashion-related. Within months I knew that I wanted to transition to digital in order to keep up with my own curiosity. I moved to InStyle.com where I learned digital and found my niche in marketing. After three and a half years I moved again to a Buzzmedia.
So, how do websites make money?
All advertisers have one thing in common – they need people’s attention. Websites can make money if they deliver an audience that trusts the source and will therefore trust, or at least accept, the advertiser’s message.
How can people running smaller sites that aren’t as big as the worldwide brands like InStyle and Vogue make money?
It’s really all about building a strong audience and finding the data to prove it. What sets you apart from other websites? Put muscle behind that aspect of your site. Strike partnerships with others in your network to get as much promotion as possible (and share the love!). Then you have to look at the data. If you can, get your site measured by syndicated research companies like Nielsen and comScore so that media agencies know who you are. Create a story about who your audience is. Are they women? If so are they moms? Fashion forward? Influencers? Media junkies? Once you have your story, pitch to advertisers who need to reach your audience. If you can prove to them that you can deliver their target audience’s attention, they cannot say no!
What advice would you give to someone who wants a career change? Would you recommend doing what you do? How would someone who is already in the working world get started down that career path?
Digital media is an extremely demanding and fast-paced environment. You have to be comfortable starting your day with one to-do list and ending it with a completely different to-do list. It is exciting and dynamic, and there is always something new to learn.
People seem to worry a lot about the blurring the lines between advertising and editorial content. What are ways that sites can integrate and do fun things with ads, while still keeping the distinction from editorial content?
This is a delicate balance to strike, and it’s crucial to hit it just right. First, know who you are. A strong editorial point of view will help you stay consistent as new challenges arise. That said, be prepared to bend, because you will have to once you see the dollar signs. Second, get creative. Technology solutions are developing every day. You can usually find a solution to your problem through smart design or innovative animation. Third, know your audience. People know that everything is sponsored nowadays, so just be upfront with them. So don’t be afraid to label things as “sponsored” when it’s appropriate.
Back to fashion. What are some of your favorite designers and clothing items? Have you discovered anything or anyone cool because you work in the industry?
Alberta Ferretti is my favorite, but of course there are many more who I love. Plus, I am lusting after a Balenciaga bag right now. Fashion is truly a form of art, and working in the industry has reinforced that to me. I think fashion and makeup are the most fun ways to get creative in your everyday life.
Does your job offer any cool perks?
I’m sure it does, but it’s a little too soon for me to tell. It’s my fourth week.
What about money? Do people in your field work commission-based or salary? Is it a good way to make a decent living?
Marketing jobs aren’t commission based, while most sales jobs are commission-based. In marketing or in sales (or in any job for that matter), you can make a good living if you are honest with yourself and good at your job.
What do you absolutely love about your job?
I love being creative in business. I may not be a good painter, dancer, or writer, but when it comes to finding marketing solutions to drive business, I’m in my groove.