EXCLUSIVE PHYTO BRAND REACHES OUT TO MASSES: UPSCALE HAIRCARE LINE USES A FEW SELECT TITLES FOR $1.5 MIL AD EFFORT

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Ales Group USA will launch its first branding campaign next spring in an effort to take its Phytotherathrie haircare line beyond the jet set.

After nearly a decade in the U.S., the premium haircare brand is still unknown to a majority of Americans other than the fashion-conscious. The French company last week hired Badger Worldwide, New York, as its first U.S. agency of record. The shop will create Phyto's initial branding campaign.

Ales wants to reach a new, larger audience, said Anna Lempereur, executive marketing director of the retail division of Ales. Until now, Phyto has run partial-page ads to tout individual products. A spring 2000 campaign will concentrate Phyto's $1 million to $1.5 million ad budget in as few as four titles, using full-page ads for the first time, Ms. Lempereur said.

HAIRCARE REGIMEN

The spring campaign will concentrate on promoting the use of several products together as a haircare regimen, similar to a skincare routine, she said.

The campaign will likely focus on Phyto's botanical ingredients, said Ms. Lempereur. Ads for fall 2000 could also promote the Lierac skincare line, which Ales will launch in the U.S. next month.

The Phyto line has been a favorite of fashion editors and beauty insiders since it was introduced via Nordstrom in 1990. Last year, Phyto tallied some $10 million in sales through several upscale stores, including Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman-Marcus and Barneys.

The brand -- created in 1964 by former hairdresser Patrick Ales -- features botanical ingredients, an interest Mr. Ales developed after buying a home in Provence. The house's previous owner had left behind a collection of dried herbs and flowers which Mr. Ales used to concoct a haircare formula.

Items, priced from $15 to $50 each, include Phyto 7 conditioners, the Phytodefrisant anti-frizz line and Phytoplage hair sunscreen line.

PREMIUM-BRAND INUNDATION

The shampoo market has been inundated by premium brands, including entries from celebrity hairdressers such as Frederick Fekkai, and imported brands such as J.F. Lazartigue.

Even mass marketers are trying to go upscale in an attempt to get consumers to trade up to higher-price items. This month, Procter & Gamble Co. announced it will begin national distribution in January of its new Physique haircare line,

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