The already ailing US magazine sector is reeling from reports that Unilever and L'Oréal have both decided to slash fourth-quarter expenditure.

Both firms are thought to be suffering from weakness in the beauty and personal care market, as well as the effects of the weak dollar. A reduction in their Q4 adspend is said to be hitting women's titles hard, helping to prolong a three-year recession in the magazine market.

Anecdotal reports of Unilever's cutbacks were confirmed by the Anglo-Dutch giant's North American vice president for media Brad Simmons. He revealed that the group has reduced print spend in line with other media.

"We made some reductions in magazines proportionate to reductions we've made in other media," Simmons declared. "It reflects some of the business challenges we've had this year. We continue to support the innovations we launched in 2003, and those brands have been doing very well in the marketplace."

Publishing insiders have also observed a reduction in L'Oréal's Q4 adspend, with one unnamed magazine executive telling Ad Age of "brutal negotiations" with the firm over 2004 print activity. Some have speculated that the beauty giant is cutting down on the number of titles it buys space in, allowing greater exposure in the magazines in which it does advertise.

L'Oréal was more cagey than Unilever in confirming the rumours. Carol Hamilton, president of L'Oréal Paris, insisted that the company "continues to aggressively support its business with the people who give us the best support." However, she would not comment on possible cuts in certain media or publications.

Data sourced from:; additional content by WARC staff