Mr. Reiner's company, International Classic Brands, resuscitates moribund brands with aggressive international strategies and value pricing.
In 1995 he tackled moisturizers, suntan lotion and fragrances. This year he'll move those brands into new countries.
And in his boldest move yet, ICB has bought rundown French fashion house Carven and plans to replace its run-down haute couture business with an affordable ready-to-wear clothing and accessories line and fragrances.
"David's marketing philosophy is to take a brand that has a certain amount of awareness but has gone a bit to sleep, make sure the quality is good, then drive the cost of sales down and add exciting advertising," said Paul Uhart, account director at Euro RSCG Wnek Gosper, London, ICB's international ad agency.
ICB's most dramatic hit so far is Cyclax, an inexpensive and neglected moisturizer previously marketed by Yardley of London in the U.K., and also sold in Australia and New Zealand. After acquiring Cyclax, Mr. Reiner shook up the U.K. market last year with a magazine campaign headlined "If you've just spent $45 on a moisturizer, hard lines" next to a photograph of a young woman, her face wrinkled in anger. Ad copy quoted a science journalist's claim that expensive facial care products are a waste of money, with the endline "Cyclax from $4.50."
U.K. women's magazines, fearful of the reaction of international skincare marketers who are mainstay advertisers, mostly rejected the ad. Media coverage of both the controversial ad and Mr. Reiner's outraged claims of protectionism won Cyclax far more space than ICB could ever have bought. Cyclax sales doubled.
His next volley is a $1 million international print campaign breaking in April. The ads will feature U.S., French, Swiss and U.K. dermatologists in their respective countries and elsewhere repeating the Cyclax claim that expensive skincare products are a waste of money.
"It will certainly be banned by many magazines," Mr. Reiner said happily. "I never liked run-of-the-mill advertising."
He forecasts Cyclax sales of about $6 million in 12 countries this year.
He also sees international marketing potential, especially in the U.S., in Cyclax's regal connections. Cyclax boasts the Royal Warrant, a tiny symbol that many U.K. products used by the royal family are permitted to carry on packaging and in advertising.
Part of Mr. Reiner's touch is to give packaging and ads a visual jolt. From redesigned packaging for the cheaper-but-just-as-effective Malibu sunscreen that somehow looks much larger than the old packaging but isn't to the strikingly ferocious ads relaunching Ma Griffe fragrance, visual is Mr. Reiner's favorite word.
The aging Ma Griffe brand gained appeal with younger fragrance buyers with print ads showing a naked man's back with bright marks where long fingernails had passionately clawed him. The copyline "Leave your mark on a man" plays on the word griffe, which means both scratch and designer signature in French.
ICB's 1995 sales were about $23 million-with 40% in the U.K.-and Mr. Reiner expects about 65% growth to around $38 million in the next two years or so. Ad spend will rise to $7 million or $8 million this year from $4.5 million last year. Backed by venture capitalists, Mr. Reiner runs the company with a team he reassembled from the days he owned the Coty brand outside the U.S.
At ICB, he seeks underperforming brands that have well-known heritages despite poor marketing.
"The first thing I look for is if you can get off a bus anywhere and say have you heard of this brand," he said.
Mr. Reiner was already licensing Carven fragrance Ma Griffe for a 5% royalty, or about $450,000 a year, before he bought Carven this year and started to rebuild.
"We're too small to continue running the [Carven] haute couture brand," he said. "They didn't have enough advertising exposure and were going down. We'll use the Carven pedigree but spend about $2.3 million advertising accessories-one-third of it in Japan."
Besides the new accessory line, designers are creating a more affordable ready-to-wear collection, which Mr. Reiner envisions advertising as "Designed for couture, ready for you to wear."
He'll also spend about $1.2 million this year re-launching another old-fashioned Carven fragrance, Vetiver. He is going back to the original woody fresh country fragrance that was abandoned after the herb vetiver became scarce.
Mr. Reiner talks entertainingly and at length on most subjects, from getting a scent just right to his early years buying and selling surplus products after leaving school at 15.
"I learned many interesting lessons, like what not to make," he said. "I was buying other peoples' mistakes."
Euro RSCG's Mr. Uhart said, "He doesn't listen to people saying you mustn't do this."
Born: June 24, 1940, in Swansea, Wales.
Education: Left school at 15.
Career highlights: Bought and sold surplus products; acquired Coty outside the U.S. in 1977 and sold the business in 1985; developed Disney children's toiletries among other products; managing director of International Classic Brands, which he founded in 1992.
Personal: Wife Chantal; daughter Dominique, 26, and son Olivier, 22. Collects sports cars, golf, skiing, tennis.