See the Spot: Jergens Tries Humor in a Humorless Business

New Campaign for Kao Brand from Arnold Features Comedic Actress Leslie Mann

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Skincare advertising tends to range from earnest to deadly serious, and endorsers are often chosen more for looks than ability to make people laugh. So Jergens' new campaign featuring comedic actress Leslie Mann ("This is 40," "Knocked Up," "40 Year Old Virgin") making quick jokes about skincare is a departure in more ways than one.

The first-ever umbrella "master brand" campaign for the Kao USA brand, from Havas' Arnold, includes short online ads breaking today, to be followed by print and 15-second TV ads in August featuring Ms. Mann. The online ads include such messages from Ms. Mann as: "Soft and beautiful isn't just about your face. It's about your butt." In others, she decries legs that feel like churros, or heels so rough they gather furballs when you walk on the carpet.

The campaign launches a new slogan: "You're more than just a pretty face." The idea sprang from Kao's insight that women spend almost all their time and beauty dollars on their face and hair, ignoring the other 90% of their bodies, said Katie Young, creative director and copywriter at Arnold. "We knew from research that when you talk to women about that it's kind of an ah-hah moment," she said, which opens their mind to the importance of body lotion.

The humorous approach was in part a response to the fact that no one else in the category is doing it. "There's a big sea of sameness in the category," Ms. Young said.

"We tried a couple of different approaches and kept finding that humor really connected to women," said Karen Frank, VP-U.S. mass and global skincare at Kao. "They don't want to take themselves too seriously."

When Ms. Mann's name came up as an endorser, she seemed perfect, Ms. Frank said, and her approach also made humor natural. "When we looked at her attributes and how women felt about her, first, they really related to her," Ms. Frank said. "They loved her humor, her attitude, that she was multifaceted."

"She's the perfect modern woman -- funny, approachable, down to earth, but she's also beautiful," Ms. Young said.

Though rare, humor has a history of working in beauty, according to James Russo, senior VP-global consumer insights of Nielsen. A study by the research firm earlier this year found beauty advertising averages 20% less memorable than even other packaged-goods categories. But two campaigns in recent years have stood out for consumer recall and sales impact -- Tina Fey's ads for L'Oreal's Garnier and Troy Polamalu's for Procter & Gamble Co.'s Head & Shoulders -- both based on humorous ads with celebrities, he said.

The Jergens campaign returns the 100-year-old brand to celebrity endorsement after decades without it, Ms. Frank said. "So bringing it back, and bringing it back with someone like Leslie, who's never done endorsements before is just a big deal for us."

It will help launch Jergens Wet Skin Moisturizers, a line of products designed to work directly out of shower when skin is wet, which Ms. Frank likened to innovations of prior years such as Natural Glow.

The $1.7 billion hand-and-body lotion category (per Nielsen) has been growing in dollars because of price increases, but not in units or household penetration, Ms. Frank said. "So we hope with this new form that makes it more convenient for women we can turn those numbers in the right direction."