Martha Stewart, others address ad crisis

A prominent group of showbiz players including Martha Stewart, Lauren Zalaznick and Susan Lyne offered beleaguered advertisers a way through the recession Tuesday: Pitch women.

They appeared along with ad-biz gurus at Gotham’s Rainbow Room for a breakfast organized by Women@NBCU, the initiative launched in May as a way to pool the ad power of the conglom’s femme-forward properties such as Bravo, Oxygen and iVillage.

Stewart’s opening talk and a panel discussion moderated by CNBC’s Maria Bartiromo explored two main themes: Women make most household buying decisions, and they’re not as cowed as men by the economy.

“Half of our members are young, still have their jobs, don’t have a 401(k), and they look at the current climate as an opportunity” to buy, said Lyne, a media-biz vet who is now chief exec of fashion e-tailer Gilt Groupe. “They’ll still spend $3,000 on an alligator handbag as long as that’s down from $30,000. They want value.”

The impact goes well beyond retail. About 55% of consumer electronics and two-thirds of cars are bought by women, noted panelist Marti Barletta, an ad-biz vet who now runs the consultancy TrendSight.

Zalaznick, who steers Women@NBCU as part of her gig atop NBC Universal’s Women & Lifestyle Entertainment Networks, said a study of the habits of what she termed “recessionistas” would be completed by April.

Stewart said her company had benefited from women’s increased focus, in this climate, on home life, including cooking and gardening. She half-jokingly added her stint in a West Virginia federal prison conditioned her well for 2009.

“I didn’t need a recession to learn what I could live without,” she said. “I had another experience.”

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