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YSL ad PATRICIA TURCK-PAQUELIER YSL'S CHAMPAGNE

By Published on .

PARIS-The skillful use of a potentially disastrous lawsuit aimed at preventing YSL Parfums from applying the Champagne name to a new perfume ultimately generated one of 1993's great marketing victories. Much of the credit goes to Patricia Turck-Paquelier, YSL's director general-international.

Unfazed when a group of champagne producers successfully barred YSL from using the Champagne name in France and Switzerland, Ms. Turck-Paquelier, 37, uncorked the marketing effort as earlier planned, including a $17 million print campaign, created in-house.

The ads, themed "The perfume of success" and showing a model posing as an actress receiving an onstage ovation, ran until 10 days before Christmas when YSL had to re-name the new fragrance in those countries. Calling it simply YSL but keeping the same corked bottle as packaging, the Elf Sanofi unit went on the offensive, using the highly publicized and acrimonious court battle to its advantage.

Encouraged by early sales and support voiced by consumers, Ms. Turck-Paquelier and her team devised a followup series of print ads showing the perfume and playing off the legal row. "My perfume is an homage to sparkling women," read one ad quoting the designer himself. Another read, "Its name was banned, but women know what to call it." A third: "Elegance can never be censored; joy, celebration and women can never be censored.

"Sales have surpassed the very high objectives we had set before the launch by $10.3 million," Ms. Turck-Paquelier says although she would not disclose total sales. Others estimate that YSL sold $39 million worth of the fragrance during its four months on the market in 1993 in Europe, Africa and the Mideast.

"Despite the controversy, 1993 sales in France were 40% over original objectives, and over 30% in Europe overall. .*.*. Since the [January 1994] launch in Asia, the perfume has done three years' worth of sales in three months," she says. And this year the fragrance is aiming for $10 million in U.S. sales.

Ms. Turck-Paquelier believes that the lawsuit and extensive publicity surrounding it actually helped. "The controversy seems to have given the perfume a character all its own," she says. "Champagne is not only a product, but an event-a spectacle. The court case made that even more true."

"We could have been sad or angry, but we decided to treat the court decision with humor," Ms. Turck-Paquelier says. "This also allowed us to turn attention back to the perfume, which women were already recognizing as special."

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