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Nearly a year after Maybelline's acquisition by L'Oreal SA, the quintessential American cosmetics brand is ready for some serious global expansion.

Its push begins with advertising breaking this week from Gotham, New York, Maybelline's agency of six years.

Keeping the Maybelline account after the acquisition is a coup for Gotham. L'Oreal has historically not retained agencies of acquired companies, let alone shops that are not global. Instead, the Paris-based beauty giant prefers to hand over the business to a roster network such as Publicis or McCann-Erickson Worldwide.


"This is the first time L'Oreal has made an acquisition of an American company and will use the leadership of the brand, including the agency, outside the U.S.," said Gotham President Sheri Baron.

At the end of 1996, Gotham quietly selected sibling Interpublic Group of Cos. agency McCann to provide the global ad distribution system that Gotham, with $270 million in U.S. billings, lacked.

Gotham did so with "the understanding that because Maybelline and L'Oreal cosmetics, handled by McCann worldwide, are competing sisters, we will establish a separate group within McCann over time to handle distribution," Ms. Baron said, "while Gotham will be responsible for global brand leadership."

The Maybelline campaign breaking this week supports Great Wear Budge-Proof Lipcolor; it begins in the U.S. and will then expand into global markets. Great Wear, along with Great Lash mascara, has become a springboard for a full line of transfer-proof cosmetics competitive with No. 1 Revlon's Color Stay.

The new campaign will be adapted as needed for foreign markets. One consideration is how effectively the revived tagline "Maybe she's born with it. Maybe it's Maybelline" will translate to other languages.


The goal, said Maybelline Senior VP-Marketing Cathy Wills, is seamless imagery where "if a woman came to the U.S., she would immediately understand it's the same Maybelline she sees at home."

Only 15% of Maybelline's more than $400 million in sales came from overseas last year. And the marketer's $70 million in U.S. ad spending far exceeds anything it spends internationally.

Before the acquisition, Maybelline had a foothold in Latin America, and a more significant presence in China and Southeast Asia. This year, Latin America most likely will be expanded, while European countries, including Russia, are expected to be added, according to industry executives.

And in some countries, where L'Oreal markets the Jade and Gemey brands, those products will eventually be moved under the Maybelline umbrella.


Model Christy Turlington is the face of Maybelline, but the company, where needed, also uses other models. Maybelline's Miami Chill spring color promotion ads, running in France, Italy, Spain and the U. S., feature model Bridget Hall.

Maybelline also wants a more accessible image, less dress-up than L'Oreal and Revlon, but not so young as to be considered a starter line like Procter & Gamble Co.'s Cover Girl.

No. 3 Maybelline has 14.1% of the $2.5 billion U.S. color cosmetics market, according to Information Resources Inc. Sales for the 52 weeks ended Dec. 29 were up nearly 8% to $347 million. No. 2 Cover Girl's sales were flat at $506 million, while share was down to 20.6% from 22%.

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