David Zinczenko throws a big party to tout new, more upscale ‘Men’s Fitness’

Zinczenko and his latest creation. ()
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Men's Fitness has been getting in shape.

Long viewed as the downmarket step-brother of its main competitor, Men's Health, the 26-year-old title owned by American Media Inc. (the Florida-based publisher of supermarket tabloids and muscle mags), is in the process of reinventing itself under David Zinczenko, Men's Health's former editor of 12 years and a fixture in the New York media smart set.

Six months after leaving his longtime post at Rodale, the parent company of Men's Health, Zinczenko's new mission is to move Men's Fitness out of the publishing ghetto by reshaping it into a lifestyle brand that wouldn't seem out of place on a coffee table with Esquire and Details.

"I think we're onto something completely different…more upscale, cooler," Zinczenko told Adweek recently.

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And what better way to strut your upscale coolness than by plying industry types with top-shelf liquor (Bulleit Bourbon and Maker's Mark) and passed apps (even if some of them, like mini corn dogs and sliders, didn't seem particularly fitness-conscious) in the The Standard's East Village penthouse?

That's where Men's Fitness toasted its makeover last night with a rooftop soiree that wasn't dampened by unseasonably chilly mid-spring temperatures. (The magazine is produced out of AMI's satellite office in the Financial District.)

"I couldn't get one car ad," said AMI chairman and C.E.O. David Pecker, speaking of the magazine's previous incarnations during a brief speech, "even though I was able to prove to advertisers that these guys who read the magazine go to the gym riding their cars!"

The redesigned and Zinczenkoized June issue, on the other hand, has two placements from Ford, as well as campaigns from Calvin Klein, Polo, American Crew and plenty of sports watches—although performance supplements (Dopamite, anyone?) still make up the lion's share of advertising in the 170-page book, just enough to detract from the luxurious sheen Zinczenko has added since becoming editorial director earlier this year.

But content-wise, the new Men's Fitness looks more GQ than Flex.

"We were able to come in and make immediate changes to the magazine, completely relaunch it, reimagine it as an active lifestyle magazine," Zinczenko told the crowd following Pecker's remarks.

Aside from the requisite workout, wellness and sex tips, there's coverage of expensive cars, colognes, cameras, duffle bags, glasses, guitars and other manly gear, all bids for high-end appeal. For the cover story, Vin Diesel posed artfully in John Varvatos, Banana Republic and Ray-Ban. And the feature well stands out with compelling photography and narrative storytelling.

"I've launched 30 magazines," said Pecker, who was previously chairman and C.E.O. of Hachette Filipacchi, where he launched George with John F. Kennedy Jr. in 1995, "and I have to say, when I go back and look at the accomplishments in my career, I don't think I've ever been more proud."

We'll be keeping an eye on how Men's Fitness does with its new regimen.