Depend Tries on a Sexy Look to Compete in a Hot Category

One of CPG's Sexiest Categories for Sales Growth Gets a Campaign to Match

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Advertising Age Player

Can sex sell adult-incontinence products? Kimberly-Clark Corp.'s Depend is about to find out.

In an extension of its "Underwareness" campaign launched last year, Depend is going from showing all types of people dropping their pants to prove adult incontinence is widespread to focusing specifically on younger women. The women strut their stuff in the brand's new Silhouette Active Fit black and beige undies -- and looking remarkably good doing it -- in a campaign launching next week.

"It's a recognition that many women with bladder leakage worry that people can tell," said Liz Metz, brand director of Depend. Years of research and development went into creating lower-rise black and beige Depend products that look more like what women normally wear.

The ads, Ms. Metz said, are "recognition that one in three women deal with this issue, and they come in all shapes and sizes."

Realistically, the campaign is also recognition that Depend needs to defend against an onslaught from rival Procter & Gamble Co., which launched Always Discreet incontinence products last summer. As of February, Always had captured a 9% share of the U.S. market, according to Yuri Hermida, VP of North American baby, feminine and adult care for P&G.

Adult incontinence may not seem sexy, but it's one of the fastest growing categories in packaged goods, thanks to an aging U.S. population. And thanks to Always, sales have only accelerated. Sales in the $1.6 billion business were up 12.7% for the four weeks ended March 21 vs. the same period a year ago, according to Nielsen data from Deutsche Bank. That's much faster than the 7.1% growth for the full 52-week period, roughly half of which came before the Always launch.

Always Discreet has exceeded P&G's expectations on two fronts, Mr. Hermida said. Not only is it growing faster than expected, but Always is losing fewer of the consumers who once used its feminine pads to treat bladder leakage than it expected. Those consumers accounted for 10% of Always volume prior to the Discreet launch, he said, but Always has actually been gaining sales and share in sanitary pads since launching Discreet, and the sanitary napkin category overall still grew 1% last quarter vs. a year ago.

Attacking the stigma of adult incontinence is part of Always' mission, too. "It's the number-one or number-two most embarrassing category to buy after family planning," Mr. Hermida said. Ultimately, P&G went with Always rather than a new brand name for its entry in part to make things more, well, discreet. "Putting Always in the cart is something women are comfortable with," he said.

While P&G has "gotten good retail distribution," Ms. Metz said, Depend is holding its own and actually gained market share last year. Nielsen data, however, shows the brand lost 5.5 points of market share for the latest four weeks and 1.5 points for the latest 52 weeks, though its sales are still up for both periods.

Besides showing younger women in their Depend undies, the brand has enlisted celebrity stylist Carson Kressley as a PR and social-media pitchman to highlight the fashion aspects.

Omnicom's Organic is now lead creavite for the brand, but the work was done by previous agency, WPP's Ogilvy & Mather. Omnicom's Marina Maher Communications handles PR and WPP's Mindshare and Geometry handle media and shopper marketing, respectively.

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CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story said that Organic led creative duties on this campaign.

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