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At a recent afternoon tea atop New York's Stanhope Hotel, Estee Lauder Inc. put on display its newest fragrance and spokesmodel and-the message was not lost on the audience-a new generation of management.

Conspicuously absent was octogenarian company founder Estee Lauder. Representing the family were her son, Estee Lauder Cos. President-CEO Leonard Lauder; his wife and Exec VP Evelyn Lauder; and niece Aerin Lauder, director of creative product development for Estee Lauder USA. Also at the podium, Estee Lauder USA President Robin Burns.

It was the twentysomething Aerin Lauder who read a letter from her grandmother hailing the new scent, Estee Lauder Pleasures. The fragrance will be personified in advertising this July by Lauder's new face of the '90s, British actress Elizabeth Hurley.

Confided one Lauderite, "Think generational. They are bringing a whole new generation of Lauders to the forefront."

The $2.5 billion beauty company could pick no better time.

"In a world more and more dominated by package-goods conglomerates, it's imperative Lauder retain the family touch," said industry consultant Allan Mottus of Mottus & Associates, New York.

Also propitious: a solid stream of megahits like Fruition and Resilience in skincare, leading the Lauder division to post an 8.8% growth rate, well above the overall beauty category's 7% jump in department stores last year, Mr. Mottus said.

And while Unilever's Calvin Klein Cosmetics Co. may have had the year's big hit in fragrances with ambisexual CK One last year, Lauder's classic Beautiful-meant to conjure up images of weddings not grunge-remained the No. 1 fragrance in department stores. Beautiful won $75 million in sales while the relaunched Tuscany Per Donna nearly tripled its volume to $25 million.

Pleasures, Lauder's first full-fledged fragrance launch since the less than spectacular Spellbound two years ago, is the next step.

Following the current trend in fragrances, it's sheer and airy. But like the new crop of lighter scents bowing this fall, the lightness doesn't dilute its staying power.

In the mass market, Revlon is introducing Lasting via Tarlow Advertising in New York and Coty is conjuring up Ghost Mist via the Joey Reiman Agency in Atlanta. Both scents are light but linger through the day.

Pleasures will be promoted with a barrage of marketing tactics: network and spot TV along with 10 million samples. Sampling with include direct mail and 50 million scent strips, many as part of spreads starting on the inside of magazine covers.

Print will be photographed by Albert Watson and created in-house, while TV will be created by one of the agencies within the Lowe Group (Lowe Howard-Spink, London, did TV creative for Tuscany Per Donna).

Bates Worldwide, New York, handles media buying (AA, May 15).

"This is the first time Conde Nast has ever allowed scent strips inside the front covers," said Estee Lauder Senior VP-Marketing Muriel Gonzalez, underscoring the high profile the launch is being accorded in the industry.

The introduction is drawing attention as well because it marks Ms. Hurley's debut as Paulina Porizkova's successor.

Without glitz there is no glory in fragrance marketing, and all that shimmer may help Lauder win back the spotlight for launches, an area where in recent years it has been overshadowed by Calvin Klein, Elizabeth Taylor and others.

Indeed, Pleasures will face some formidable competition including the long awaited Polo Sport for Women from Ralph Lauren and Elizabeth Taylor's Black Pearls from Unilever.

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