$50 Mil Launch: Crest spinoff targets women

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A team of Procter & Gamble Co. marketers who jokingly call themselves "chicks in charge" is launching the first mass-market toothpaste positioned for women-complete with $50 million-plus rollout and feminine flourishes worthy of a new beauty-care product.

Crest Rejuvenating Effects hits shelves in August, backed by TV and print ads from Bcom3 Group's D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, New York, to break in early October. The campaign will feature actress/singer Vanessa Williams as part of the total marketing effort, which also includes publicity events and sampling in health clubs, spas, resorts and homes.

Rejuvenating Effects was inspired in part by last year's launch of P&G's Olay Total Effects. Olay consumers said in focus groups they wanted a toothpaste that did for their smiles what Total Effects claims to do for their skin. The result was the cosmetic-style toothpaste with multi-benefit whitening, new design and unusual sensory wrinkles for the category to improve what P&Gers call the "user experience."

Targeted to please women ages 30 to 44 are such features as a teal tube that departs from Crest's usual white; a glimmering "pearlescent" box; sparkly, teal-toned toothpaste and taste with vanilla and cinnamon notes. Rejuvenating Effects also produces a slight tingling sensation that P&G hopes provides a "sensory signal" of gum health and fresh breath. It will be priced at parity with other Crest multifunction toothpastes.

changing times

"This is one of the few categories [in personal care] where there are no products specifically marketed to women," said Diane Dietz, P&G oral care marketing director, and one of the "chicks in charge," along with Jocelyn Wong, assistant brand manager and Kaaren Townsend, brand manager for P&G's North American market development organization. "I think times are changing and women want products specifically for themselves," said Ms. Dietz.

Shekhar Mitra, global manager of research and development for oral care at P&G, acknowledges that Rejuvenating Effects doesn't functionally do much that other Crest products don't. The innovation, he said, is really about a more pleasing design to achieve a better experience and, he hopes, make women brush more.

Rejuvenating Effects remains true to Crest's equity of "building healthy, beautiful smiles," said Ms. Wong. But it's also the latest step in Crest's evolution toward more cosmetic appeal and a big departure from the 1990s, when P&G viewed toothpaste as all about functional benefits like tartar control-and subsequently fell behind competitors in whitening toothpaste. A low point for Crest came with the 1994 launch of Crest Gum Care, which Ms. Dietz acknowledges tasted bad and discolored teeth of some consumers; it was ultimately pulled from shelves.

Missteps like that helped Crest lose category leadership to Colgate-Palmolive Co. in the late 1990s. But P&G hopes the new product will help rejuvenate Crest's market share. January's launch of Crest Whitening Plus Scope narrowed the gap with Colgate by 5 percentage points, giving P&G a 30% share to Colgate's 33% for the eight weeks ending April 21, according to Information Resources Inc. figures. Citing data that includes unmeasured channels, Ms. Dietz said Crest has regained share leadership for back-to-back months for the first time since 1996.

Ms. Wong notes growing interest in toothpaste as a fashion accessory has contributed to U.S. households buying whitening toothpaste reaching 50% last year for the first time. Ms. Dietz cites the appearance of $8 to $9 imported European whitening toothpaste at prestige cosmetics counters of Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue as more evidence the time is right for Rejuvenating Effects.

Neither she nor D'Arcy has experience with P&G beauty care, but Ms. Dietz said that hasn't hampered the effort, guided by D'Arcy's lead creative Penny Hawkey, exec VP-group creative director. Ms. Hawkey has worked on campaigns including "I'm worth it" for L'Oreal and efforts for Jergens and Lancome.

Different messages

Cultural cues will also play a role in the marketing. The message in D'Arcy's general market ads will be markedly different from that in African-American ads from Burrell Communications, Chicago, though both will use Ms. Williams, Ms. Wong said.

General-market TV ads position Rejuvenating Effects as a natural extension of the many other things women do for beauty care. But African-American women don't age as noticeably, don't have such involved beauty-care regimens and are more likely to see aging as desirable and conferring respect, Ms. Wong said. So the Burrell ads show images of Ms. Williams from various times in her life, noting she hasn't aged much and lauding a "product that cares for her mouth and allows it to look as good as her face." Directing both campaigns is Matthew Ralston, director of music videos for Madonna and Jewel.

Ms. Townsend, who works with sales teams, concedes many men inside and outside P&G have trouble understanding the idea of toothpaste for women. "The most challenging sales call was when we had men calling on men," she said, prompting her and Ms. Wong to make a video explaining the launch to P&G sales reps.

One of the most convincing arguments, she said, comes from Gillette Co.'s successful launch last year of the Venus women's razor. "Venus is a very functional product that really incorporates a lot of beauty-care insights in the campaign, from packaging to advertising to presentation in store," Ms. Townsend said. Like razors, toothpaste does the same thing for men as women, she said. The difference with Venus, and she hopes with Rejuvenating Effects, comes in the marketing, design and experience.

The launch team included men, such as Crest toothpaste brand manager Matt Barresi, all of whom have supported the concept, Ms. Dietz said. Jennifer Dauer, general manager, North American oral care, also played a role.

"When we say `chicks in charge,' what we really mean is consumers are in charge," Ms. Dietz said. But asked whether Rejuvenating Effects could ever have been positioned as it is without the women's involvement, all three laughed, and Ms. Townsend said: "Based on the comments in meetings, probably not."

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