Strong enough for a man but made for a tween

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Unilever's Axe has built the fastest-growing deodorant brand in the U.S. around funny ads showing young men they can use body spray to attract women. Now, rival Procter & Gamble Co. is betting on body spray to attract girls to its Secret brand.

P&G is using Secret Sparkle Body Spray and its range of teeny-bopper-oriented scents to lure entry-level consumers for the segment-leading women's deodorant. To do so, it's using an unusual campaign that includes sampling and iPod giveaways via fast-growing tween fashion mecca Limited Too as well as animated TV ads and the brand's first blog marketing.

"Girls have started using deodorant younger and younger," said Dave Knox, assistant brand manager at P&G overseeing the body-spray launch. "It used to be 12 or 13 was kind of the entry point, and that's slowly ratcheted down each year. ... If you don't target the consumer in her formative years, you're not going to be relevant through the rest of her life."

Limited Too, with its target ages of 7 to 14, became a perfect fit. Having tested sampling last summer at the chain with the Secret Sparkle roll-on antiperspirant line, Mr. Knox decided it would work better still in a promotion for a body-spray product for which the onset of puberty is no requirement.

Many young girls are already familiar with body sprays from such chains as Limited Stores' Bath & Body Works. "But they're also familiar with it being $15 or $20 a bottle there," he said. At the same time, many girls in the target segment have become familiar with the concept of mass-market body sprays, thanks largely to Axe, he said, though that brand is targeted at boys 18 and up.

The Limited Too effort includes samples for all customers along with a co-branded sweepstakes giving away 300 iPod Shuffles. The Shuffle "is an entry-level product" with a value price point, too, making it a natural fit with Sparkle, Mr. Knox said. The body sprays are also integrated into a popular tween online hangout, Neopets.com, as a reward for which girls can redeem the "Neopoints" they earn. P&G last week launched Secret's first blog-marketing program via SparkleBody-Spray.com.

`PASSION POINTS'

Mr. Knox describes the Limited Too and iPod both as "passion points for teens," adding: "We're hoping to get the rub from that."

With much of the Sparkle target still only vaguely aware of boys, P&G isn't using the blatant sexual innuendos found in ads for Unilever's Axe (from Bartle Bogle Hegarty, New York; planning and buying by WPP Group's MindShare, New York) or Gillette Co.'s Tag (creative by Havas' Arnold Worldwide, Boston, planning and buying by MindShare).

Instead, it's using tamer animated ads from Secret's shop, Publicis Groupe's Leo Burnett, Chicago (planning and buying by sibling Starcom Mediavest Group, New York), which broke earlier this month on cable and network programs targeted toward older teens, such as WB Network and MTV.

Mr. Knox sees the body sprays as "a safe entry into the beauty category" for girls that won't rankle parents like giveaways of lipstick or "heavy perfume" might.

Sparkle Body Spray is the first entry in the sub-brand to get TV support.

The step-up in support is a sign the appeal to younger consumers is working. Early tracking shows Sparkle users making the transition to more grown-up Secret products, and Mr. Knox said the sub-brand has been among the key factors that has made Secret the only women's deodorant brand to increase sales the past two years.

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