Nivea's Anti-Aging Strategy Works Very Well

Ad Audit: Nivea's Q10 Advanced Anti-Wrinkle Reducer Day Creme Vs. Lancome's Primordiale Cell Defense

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NEW YORK ( -- Before looking at the ads discussed, a little set up is in order. Virtually all prestige companies have settled into a workable but undistinguished format for their anti-aging skin care print ads. These are the usual components: pretty face (younger by a good margin than the consumer being sold to); product shot; and major claim(s) with lots of permission-to-believe stats, often including comparison charts and graphs. If the consumer cares to read it all, she will undoubtedly glaze over.
Lancome Ad
Lancome Primordiale Cell Defense
Category Potential Score % of Category
Headline 25.00 22.63 90.50
Visual Impact 27.50 22.83 83.00
Copy 25.00 21.58 84.90
Consumer Appeal 22.50 20.03 89.00
Total 100.00
© Grayson Associates 2007

One of the great ad lines of the past is still operational in skin-care advertising: "If you've got it, flaunt it." And do marketers ever -- flaunt the stats, that is. So much so that consumers in every price range say they are confused by the blur of products and claims, and that even at product prices well above $100, they still don't know if and why one item is better than another. In the luxury-price range, cult image (read: status) and/or beauty adviser commissions often work harder than the stuff in the bottles. The bottom line: Regardless of price, consumers tend to stay with their newest miracle worker until the next one comes along, which in turn creates more confusion. The cycle goes on. What's a woman to do?

Buzz is key
One of our oft-mentioned phrases is, "If you are perceived as being in a commodity category, the only things which separate one product from another are image and price." To that we now officially add "buzz" (courtesy of blogs) as a key separation factor, however it is achieved. If you accept the reality (we do) that at every price point, and in every channel of distribution, there are equally well-crafted anti-aging products coming from authoritative companies (image) with the latest ingredients and clinicals to support claims, then the anti-aging skin-care category can be characterized as a commodity. Therefore, the triumvirate of image (print advertising being the lead component), price and buzz are the real decision motivators.

With the exception of La Mer (formerly Crème de la Mer, Estee Lauder), there is little buzz in prestige skin care. All the rest, including leaders Clinique, Lauder and Lancôme, are locked into comparable authority positions as their established brand advertising further blur product differences. But among mass skin care, the story is quite different. The trade is awash with new products and entrepreneurial brands in addition to stalwarts such as Neutrogena, L'Oreal, Procter & Gamble and Nivea, which are at the forefront of taking share from department stores. The result is far more diversity and freshness in the mass channel. Nevertheless, it's a commodity aura for the anti-aging category.

Why Dove is like others
Notably, Dove has tried to separate itself from the flock with its Pro-Age campaign by using plenty of buzz (read: concept/strategy). But after buzz, the repeat sale depends upon value: expected and realized benefits, commensurate with the price. Dove hasn't broken through the anti-aging share barrier for three reasons: (1) the campaign is centered on hair and body (difficult to trade up to face); (2) the products and packaging are presented as toiletries and not as more top of the line facial skin care, from which you get the trickle down effect; (3) there is nothing special about the products.
Nivea Ad
Nivea Q10 Advanced Wrinkle Reducer
Category Potential Score % of Category
Headline 25.00 23.50 94.00
Visual Impact 27.50 27.28 97.60
Copy 25.00 21.63 86.80
Consumer Appeal 22.50 20.88 92.80
Total 100.00
© Grayson Associates 2007

Now, let's see how Nivea's different kind of buzz will change the balance in mass. We've coupled its new approach to anti-aging advertising with a typical (and good) ad from Lancôme to illustrate how an emotional image can compete favorably with lots of clinical metrics.

Lancôme's Primordiale Cell Defense ad follows the prestige format of technology (process/function) over emotion with a good execution of its type. The headline has plenty of stopping action, "Fight Oxidation, Fight Aging!" followed immediately with benefits, "Reveal virtually lineless, radiantly touchable skin." Good start. But, would you know this claim to be any different from its similar-sounding competitors? The visual is the typical young, lineless, pore-less, texture-less face of a 14 year old! How about a little realism in the perceived benefit? (Save the fantasy for fragrance.) The copy is strong on permission-to-believe support with benefits attached to each of the product's performance attributes. Still, it all works for consumer appeal. In all, an effective 86.72. Well-crafted. No surprises.

Running tapes
Nivea's Q10 Advanced Anti-Wrinkle Reducer Day Creme neatly taps into the "running tapes" of women needing friendship for happiness and also some stress relief about how they look as they age. (The concept of the running tapes is founded in semiotics. Each one of us has many running tapes, or attitudes, in our heads, with varying degrees of energy/intensity; some examples: politics, health, fashion, appearance or aging. When an ad can truly connect with an existing running tape (especially on an emotional level), the consumer's own energy and passion will assist strongly in the conviction factor. Here we have a total fit between the headline, the visual and the benefit -- and all in an emotional context. "The difference between fewer laugh lines AND MORE LAUGHS," the headline reads. (Note the visual's happiness benefit, which also implies success.) It's hard to do better than that. The headline's only slight weakness is lack of news value.

The visual impact is perfect in the key attributes of stopping power, emotion and visualization of benefits (real and imagined), slipping only in memorability of the product name. Copy was a little weak in news value and readability. Interestingly, rather than stats to provide permission to believe (vital in this category), Nivea chose to use a global authority: "Millions of women worldwide already trust Q10 for visibly younger-looking skin." The consumer appeal's slight weakness was not creating dissonance with one's existing product, and it is particularly easy to correct in this case.

The sign-off taps into the Nivea campaign, "Touch and be touched," which has been breaking tradition for other skin-care products; i.e., a romantic element (a guy) for a body lotion or three friends in a cellulite ad, all warm and happy, with camaraderie as the major element. In a category where (fantasy) expectations are not realized and there is surely no instant gratification, being able to laugh about it has a nice benefit. For all its apparent softness, this ad is still very competitive where it counts, especially in the name. In the hierarchy of end benefits, which name is stronger, Cell Defense or Advanced Wrinkle Reducer? Kudos. Nivea gives good buzz.

Next week: Magazine Publishers Association

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Note: The AdAudit analysis is a tool to discern strengths and weaknesses in print advertising, prior to insertion. Its weighted score is based upon 31 keys to effective print advertising within four categories: Headline, Visual Impact, Copy and Consumer Appeal. Scores translate to: 90-100 Powerful; 80-89 Effective; 70-79 Improve; less than 69 Start Over. The total score reflects the combined average of the specific panel of auditors -- advertising and marketing professionals -- assigned to each ad. For full details visit

Suzanne Grayson is a managing partner of marketing consulting firm Grayson Associates. Her partner and husband is Robert Grayson, Ph.D., who is also a contributor to this column. Comments are welcome, as are ads you would like to have audited. Contact [email protected]
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