Birchbox Launches First TV Campaign to Reach New Audiences

Spot Was Developed by M&C Saatchi

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Add Birchbox to the list of startups -- including Square -- that have turned to traditional TV advertising as they look to drive mass adoption of their services.

Birchbox was the biggest name in a passel of subscription commerce startups at the turn of the decade, offering beauty samples for women and later a version for men. It generates revenue through subscription fees and product sales of full-sized items available on its own site. While a handful of advertisers like USA Network's "Suits" have branded the boxes, those were unpaid partnerships.

The company reports more than 800,000 subscribers and has focused its marketing efforts on direct-response ads on digital channels for customer acquisition. Now it's planning a big push into TV that will continue through the holiday season with a campaign developed by M&C Saatchi, New York. The intent is for it to run in the top 50 to 100 designated market areas, including New York, San Francisco, Atlanta, Boston and Chicago, and to make national cable and network buys.

"We're not disclosing the intended spend, but for us it's really material," said co-CEO Katia Beauchamp. "For any more mature company, it would be a drop in the bucket."

Birchbox spent about $490,000 on measured media in 2013, according to Kantar Media, down from $1.2 million in 2012.

The 30-second spot features a series of women trying out new products like a new lipstick shade, a set of eyelash curlers and perfume, as well as a man waxing his mustache. The tagline at the end is "Open for beautiful."

Ms. Beauchamp said that Birchbox is bringing a test-and-learn approach to its TV ads -- and that it might extend the campaign to print and outdoor depending on how this first phase goes.

"One of our big goals is to reach new audiences," she said. "Maybe we'll be surprised with the impact from smaller, less sexy markets where people are really ready to hear from a company with this attitude and value proposition."

Birchbox has raised $71.9 million from investors, according to CrunchBase. That includes a $60 million Series B round announced last month, which could explain where the resources to step up its marketing came from. The company has about 250 employees.

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CORRECTION: Due to information provided by a PR person, a previous version of this story stated that Birchbox's agency was Saatchi & Saatchi. The company's agency is actually M&C Saatchi, New York. An earlier version also inaccurately stated that Birchbox made money from the sale of branded boxes; it doesn't.

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