Hearst snags exclusive deal for scent sampling

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Hearst Magazines titles, through an exclusive marketing alliance with R.P. Scherer North America, will be the first in the U.S. to carry a new fragrance sampling vehicle in their pages.

The sealed gel capsules, dubbed TruScent, cost more to use than traditional fragrance strips but are said to be more convenient and to deliver a truer scent sample. Since the capsules can be molded into the shape of fragrance bottles, they're also being pitched as a tool to reinforce brand image.

Oscar de la Renta Worldwide will insert samples of its newest fragrance, So de la Renta, into May issues of Marie Claire and Victoria.


R.P. Scherer developed TruScent four years ago. Consumers crack open the capsules, enclosed in foil packs that are bonded to magazine ad pages, to sample several drops of liquid perfume.

TruScent fragrance capsules have been distributed in European and Canadian magazines during the past year. The capsules were also used for in-store sampling in the U.S. last year by Oscar de la Renta's Oscar and So de la Renta; Liz Claiborne Cosmetics' Curve for men and women; Elizabeth Arden Co.'s Sunflowers and Black Pearls; and Houbigant's Ambush.

But magazine distribution in the U.S. was held up while waiting for U.S. Postal Service approval. That was given last fall, after Ann Sutherland Fuchs, senior VP-group publisher at Hearst Magazines, and Alan Jacobs, VP-cosmetics for R.P. Scherer, worked to modify the TruScent samples to meet postal service specifications.


Hearst Magazines has exclusive distribution of TruScent through 1999. R.P. Scherer is currently working with 28 different fragrances to develop TruScent packaging and perfume samples for distribution. Hearst, which ran 809 pages of fragrance advertising last year, sees the deal as giving it an advantage over rivals, particularly Conde Nast Publications.

Liz Falconer, VP-marketing and creative for Oscar de la Renta Worldwide, said the cost for in-store sampling via TruScent is significantly lower than using a spray vial on a card.

"That means we can reach many more consumers with TruScent, five times as many," she said.

While TruScent is more expensive to distribute through magazines than scent strips, Ms. Falconer said even that pays off in terms of positive consumer reaction.

Hearst is charging a 9% to 15% premium over the usual fragrance strip charge for ad pages carrying TruScent. The price varies depending on how many and which titles are used.


Ms. Fuchs said she expects strong advertiser response, particularly based on the ability to recreate the color and shape of a fragrance bottle.

"Fragrance advertisers have spent millions of dollars developing that packaging, why not use it as often as they can?" she said. Ms. Fuchs also sees promotional possibilities for the new vehicle to drive store traffic.

"Because we can change the color of these [TruScent] bottles, we can make one gold and tell consumers if they find the gold bottle to bring it to [a particular] store and win a prize. The possibilities are endless," she said.

Copyright February 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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