Bra Just Won't Fit? Playtex Offers Some Support

Ads, Website Help Women Deal With Wayward Wires, Other Typical Concerns

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"Are they real?" "When the girls are happy, I am happy."

So goes the straight-talking campaign from Playtex that shows women in their bras standing around talking to each other about bulging cups, poking underwires and slipping straps.
Following Dove's lead: Playtex's ads feature regular-looking women as opposed to supermodels.
Following Dove's lead: Playtex's ads feature regular-looking women as opposed to supermodels.

The effort, from Krafworks, New York, rolled out earlier this month and invites consumers to the Playtex website for fitting tips and a video showing where and how to measure in the privacy of home, away from the unflattering lights of a department store. And Roz, the "interactive bra-fit specialist," gives advice on which model to choose. The site is built around Playtex's best-selling lines: 18 Hour, Secrets, Thank Goodness it Fits, and Half Sizes Too.

Bonds of laughter
The campaign is Playtex's first push in three years. The marketer spent $23 million on ads in 2006, and $10 million in the first six months of 2007. Vicki Seawright, head of marketing, said Playtex was ready for something new. "When we talk to women, they're funny," she said. On the subject of their bras, "they talk about it, they laugh about it, they have something in common."

At least some of this is made possible by the popular but much-derided Dove commercials with women of all shapes and sizes in their unmentionables -- plastered on billboards in major markets. NPD Senior Analyst Marshal Cohen said it's an idea whose time has come. "We saw the beauty business reach out and try to get real, and intimate apparel has recognized the need to do this as well," he said. "Women love hearing that they're not the only ones."
Vicki Seawright, head of marketing at Playtex
Vicki Seawright, head of marketing at Playtex

The intimate-apparel business is going gangbusters. According to the NPD Group, sales hit 0.6 billion between August 2006 and July 2007, from $9.3 billion two years ago. In the past decade, the growth has been driven by Victoria's Secret, the 800-pound gorilla of lingerie. The company sold $5 billion in merchandise, including clothes and beauty products in 2006. (Playtex parent HanesBrands doesn't break out sales by brand.)

Alienated by ads
But the market is starting to change. "The low end is carrying big-name brands, department stores are looking into carrying better and more exclusive products and they're starting to chip away at the king, or I should say queen, of the hill," Mr. Cohen said.

While teens aspire to Victoria's Secret and young adults wear the brand, career-minded 30-somethings sometimes get alienated by the supermodel ads. "These women don't want to be insulted," he Cohen said. "And the department store has the opportunity to pick up where they've lost ground."

That's where Playtex comes in with an honest approach, talking about negative attributes as well as emphasizing the positive ones.

"Our consumers are refreshingly honest about their bodies and their bra needs," Ms. Seawright said. "We wanted to capture that and say we know what you're going through -- and here is a bra to fit your needs."
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