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Maidenform shows its new shape this month, with an ad campaign to introduce the recovering company's latest pitch: perfection.

New ads from Frierson, Mee & Kraft, New York, are part of Maidenform's effort to complete a reorganization it undertook starting in July 1997. The company plans to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the first half of 1999.

Print ads break in March issues of magazines, and outdoor boards will appear near major retail locations starting Feb. 14.

The initial campaign is budgeted at $5 million, but spending should increase in the future, said Manette Scheininger, senior VP-marketing.

"Advertising is what built this brand, and it is an important ingredient" in growth plans, she said.


Maidenform was the first marketer of intimate apparel to show its products on TV, in the long-running classic "Dream" campaign where women dreamed of performing on construction sites and in orchestra pits "in my Maidenform bra."

The 77-year-old company fell on hard times this decade as it fell behind in tracking and delivering inventory to stores while trying to integrate acquisitions.

In the past, Ms. Scheininger said, Maidenform positioned itself as "the company that understands women." While that psychological positioning still works, women also want products that work and this campaign aims to show Maidenform as both fashionable and effective, she said.

Maidenform has refocused on its fashion-conscious styles for small- to mid-busted women, and has added new products to its lines.

The new campaign and its tagline, "Perfecting the real you," go back to the basic function of the product, said John Frierson, president of Frierson Mee. The message is "Maidenform will make you look good and that's what matters in a bra," he said.

The effort also features a strong in-store component. including display boxes, banners and tags all featuring the new image.

Maidenform chose in-store and outdoor advertising because the marketer wanted a targeted, grass-roots campaign that approached women where they make decisions.


" Many women say they're predisposed to brands, but when [a woman] comes to the store, other factors come into play," said Ms. Scheininger.

Maidenform has been squeezed in the department store by mass-market brands doing heavy discounting on one end and by the strong in-store presence of designer brands on the other, said Neil Kraft, agency creative director.

According to consultancy NPD Group, the bra market has grown to $4.2 billion in sales in 1998, a 10.5% increase from the year earlier. But consumers are increasingly shopping outside department-store channels, a trend that favors catalogs and specialty retailers.

The marketer is considering direct-selling options, such as Internet retailing.

"When we do it, we want to make sure . . . we have a site that will educate the

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