CoverGirl answers Rihanna with 40 shades and credit to 1,000 women

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CoverGirl today launches new work from Droga5 for TruBlend Matte Made foundation, a product with 40 shades aimed at meeting needs across multicultural skin tones.

To make the point, the 13 minute and 43 second online ad from director Kim Gehrig includes 60 seconds of ad and 12 minutes and 43 seconds of credits for more than 1,000 women who helped inspire the product line. It will appear on TV as a 15-second ad, sans extended credits.

When asked how the 1,000 women "inspired" the ads, a Droga5 spokeswoman said they were people who spoke out across social about needing more from their foundation, and those who posted consumer reviews on retail sites about how previous foundations failed to address their needs.

CoverGirl worked for most skin tones previously, but the new line adds a number of undertones "so that not only the Caucasian consumer, but also South Asian, Hispanic and African American can all find the tones that work for them," says Ukonwa Ojo, senior vice president of CoverGirl at Coty.

Rihanna's Fenty Beauty, with its own 40 shades of foundation formulated to work for all skin tones, has gotten plenty of publicity the past year, much of it around the notion that no other cosmetics brand was similarly focused on women of color. (It's worth mentioning that Rihanna is a former CoverGirl model.)

Is that fair?

"Of course not," says Ojo. "We've always had foundations that matched 99 percent of skin tones. It's always been in the DNA of CoverGirl, and we've formulated for that. We have the Queen Collection launched several years ago [with Queen Latifah] across different formulas."

But Ojo acknowledges, "We weren't as overt in talking about that as we should have been."

The new advertising is a step in that direction. And the broader "I am what I makeup" campaign for CoverGirl from Droga5 launched last fall shows signs of working, Ojo says.

"We're starting to see stabilization of the business," she says. "It had been neglected for a while." Coty acquired CoverGirl in a spinoff from Procter & Gamble Co. in late 2016.

Besides ending sales and market-share declines, the new campaign is producing exponential growth in organic social-media conversations and recommendations from influencers, Ojo says, with social-media buzz up 80 percent over the prior year this winter, then up 165 percent in April and 400 percent in May.

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