Esquire Cover Offers Readers Brooklyn Decker Fantasy — But is it the Future?

Latest stunt by David Granger is foray into augmented reality with an SI supermodel

I like Esquire. I love Brooklyn Decker. I use Barnes & Noble like my own personal library. And I have a smartphone.

So this stunt — cooked up by David Granger, Esquire's perpetually restless magazine editor — was more or less conceived specifically for me.

Esquire put Decker — whose fame rocketed when she was chosen as Sports Illustrated's 2010 swimsuit issue cover model — on its February cover, after readers selected her as the "Sexiest Woman Alive," an honor no one can possibly argue with.

Then the magazine struck a deal with GoldRun, a company that creates GPS-based apps, for a nifty promotion in which readers can download an app that allows them to take photos with Decker's virtual avatar inside Barnes & Noble stores around the country. (The company also created another app-based campaign for the February issue, which allows users to snap photos of virtual letters of Esquire's re-imagined logo that appear at various landmarks in major cities like New York, L.A. and Chicago.)

The app-maker told the New York Times that it made sure to anchor Decker in the foreground to discourage users from taking “suggestive poses” or even “touching her.”

Decker’s avatar appears in a 150-square-foot in Barnes & Noble magazine sections, where, of course, you can buy Esquire.

“We’re hoping it will drive traffic to their stores and it will benefit both of us,” Granger told the Times earlier this week. “To my mind, it’s a really cool technology to make use of, but I hope the end result is that people buy the print magazine.”

If all of this sounds like little more than an adult scavenger hunt, well … it is.

But it’s also a traditional print magazine not afraid to experiment with new technology — something that’s still all-too-rare in the publishing business.

And when it comes to mini tech-print collisions, Granger is on the leading edge. In 2008, Granger produced a blinking, electronic-ink cover for Esquire’s 75th anniversary issue — an industry first. A few months later, he created a cover that peeled back to reveal the table of contents, and later, a perforated, mix-and-match-style cover featuring George Clooney, Justin Timberlake and Barack Obama.

And like most consumer magazines, Esquire could use a little bump at the newsstand. During the first half of 2010, the magazine sold an average of 101,823 single copies per issue, up about 4 percent, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations — though that’s down from what its 109,000 average in 2008.

But some industry analysts aren’t so sure what Esquire is doing with technology will ultimately save the magazine business’ print woes.

“I am resistant to the idea that sending people away from the printed page to some cell phone activity or to the web is actually a good idea in the long term for printed magazines,” noted publishing consultant Bob Sacks wrote on his blog. “I think I would rather prove the vitality of the printed page by spending the same money on stellar editorials or totally compelling writing."

Sacks added: “At the end of the day a printed magazine should stand on its feet and proudly be what it is — a damn good read. All the other stuff is bluster, smoke and mirrors.”