Herbal Essences takes a cold shower

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Procter & Gamble Co.'s Herbal Essences brand has stopped having orgasms on air in the U.S.-putting the 10-year-old Totally Organic Experience on hold in favor of the non-climactic "Never Underestimate the Power of Herbal."

P&G insists it's not saying no to Herbal's trademark shouts of "Yes! Yes! Yes!" The campaign is still on air outside the U.S., where Herbal Essences is now in more than 60 countries. And the new campaign "is not intended as a permanent replacement" for Totally Organic, said a spokeswoman for the brand.

Totally Organic is among the signature, if more controversial, accomplishments of Linda Kaplan Thaler, who led the team at now-defunct Wells Rich Greene that created the campaign for Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.'s Clairol in 1994 and won the account for the then-failing brand.

The campaign reversed years of share declines for Herbal Essences, and Ms. Kaplan Thaler brought the brand and campaign to her own shop and later kept them following P&G's 2001 acquisition of Clairol.

Ten years later after the campaign's introduction, P&G has stopped getting much bang for the buck from Totally Organic. Herbal Essences lost 1.9 share points in shampoo and 1.1 points in conditioner in the 52 weeks ended Aug. 8, according to Information Resources Inc. The only category where it gained ground was in coloring, where the brand gained 0.3 points behind the also orgasm-free, if somewhat racy "Dare to Streak" campaign from Publicis Groupe's Kaplan Thaler.

A person close to the effort termed the latest Herbal campaign "an evolution," noting it still has a breathy voice-over by "Sex and the City" star Kim Catrall. "Whether it's that tagline or moaning in the shower, it's still going to be shower-based or sexy or along that line." New ads, possibly with another tagline, are in the works.

under fire

P&G came under fire in 2002 from the American Family Association, when the conservative group said it didn't change the Herbal ads as promised. P&G did launch a new ad in the campaign featuring a husband and wife, which didn't satisfy the AFA. By 2003, P&G dropped the husband, with Ms. Catrall going solo in the shower for Herbal.

Randy Sharp, director of special projects for the AFA, said he'd like to think his group's efforts, including forwarding e-mails from mothers concerned about the ads, had paid off. "But it could be the ads just ran their course," he said.

If placating the AFA was a motivation for P&G dropping Totally Organic, however, it didn't work. The group last week launched a boycott of P&G's Tide and Crest brands, charging P&G had contributed $10,000 to a group backing repeal of a Cincinnati ordinance that prohibits passage of gay rights laws.

Beyond the politics, Totally Organic is a decade-old campaign based on Meg Ryan's performance in the movie "When Harry Met Sally." Herbal Essences, under pressure from L'Oreal's Garnier Fructis for younger, hipper consumers, is trying new approaches to reach them.

Supporting the "Power of Herbal" campaign, P&G last week began distributing ring tones and screen graphics via its Web site, backed by banner and print ads and e-mail offers to members of its Club Herbal.

Young women can download Beyonce wallpaper for their cellphones at the site-but not a ring tone of her breathy "Naughty Girl" cover of Donna Summer's multi-orgasmic disco hit "Love to Love You Baby."

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