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L'Oreal is betting $70 million that 1994 will be a beauty of a year.

Cosmair's L'Oreal cosmetics and fragrance group is increasing its overall marketing budget 16% from 1993, a year in which L'Oreal surprisingly was the only established mass-market cosmetics brand to see double-digit sales gains.

Part of the spending will support V the Vibrant Scent by Vanderbilt, L'Oreal's first major fragrance introduction since 1985. But the bulk-$28 million-of the budget will go to Plenitude Excell-A, the first new skincare product from the marketer since Plenitude itself was launched in 1989.

Excell-A is Plenitude's first alpha hydroxy acid-based anti-aging potion. Excell-A is unique in that it contains sunscreens and a patent pending anti-oxidant vitamin complex.

In addition to network TV and print advertising from Publicis, New York, L'Oreal plans to distribute more than 19 million samples through magazines, stores and direct mail. Also, $1.99 trial sizes of Excell-A will be sold just before the May kickoff.

The mailing of 2 million packets to users of both Plenitude and competitive brands "is our biggest ever since we began building our database in 1991," said Stephen Mormoris, VP-marketing, L'Oreal cosmetics and fragrance division.

Plenitude has been a success for the marketer since the very first; last year, the brand posted a 1 point increase to hold an estimated 15.5% of the $400 million mass-market facial moisturizer category, while leader Oil of Olay from Procter & Gamble Co. fell 6 points to a 32% share. P&G recently pulled the plug on its unprofitable Clarion cosmetics (AA, Jan. 24).

Conversely, L'Oreal's 1993 jump in sales and share of color cosmetics was a surprise from a company that for years was characterized as, at best, a niche player. While the $2.1 billion mass-market cosmetics category grew just 1.6% in dollars, according to Information Resources Inc., and players like Revlon actually saw sales decline, No. 4 L'Oreal managed to increase sales 13% and boost market share 1 point to 10.4%.

In 1994, the company will hike makeup spending by some 14% to $27 million, Mr. Mormoris said. In the process, it hopes to boost sales 14% as it introduces more products aimed at younger and ethnic consumers.

And while L'Oreal will continue to promise prestige products at accessible prices, it's working hard to ensure product and price are more consumer-friendly. Much of the line will now be packaged in see-through compacts, and a slightly less expensive blush, called Blushesse, will be added.

Cosmetics agency McCann-Erickson Worldwide, New York, will handle the $8 million media introduction of V, with ads themed "The world is wide, and anything can happen."

V is aimed at a younger woman than the cornerstone Vanderbilt, an aging fragrance that, like much of its competition, saw sales decline this past holiday season, according to IRI.

If the V ultimately stands for victory, the fragrance group will also try its hand again at men's scents.

"There are opportunities in [mass] fragrances," Mr. Mormoris said. "The category just needs some vitality."

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