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Procter & gamble Co.'s Gain detergent had long toiled in the pack of also-rans in the teeming detergent category until it got some help from overseas in 1996.

P&G reapplied to the U.S. an ad concept first used by Leo Burnett Co., London, for the Daz brand in the U.K. In the U.S., it became the "Gain Show and Smell Challenge," in which a TV crew "surprises" a homemaker to check on how her laundry smells.

P&G used the campaign to build sales outside the brand's traditional strongholds in the South and West. Susan E. Arnold, 44, VP-laundry products, heads the marketing team behind the brand.

Within a year, the campaign helped build Gain from No. 8 to No. 5 in the $4.3 billion laundry detergent category and increased its volume share from 4.9% to 6.7%. Gain's dollar sales were up 7.4% for the 52 weeks ended April 26 in a powdered-laundry detergent segment that shrank 3.7%, according to IRI, pushing Gain to No. 3 in the segment, behind P&G's Tide and Cheer and ahead of Unilever's Surf.

While the ads helped, providing strong value and the right positioning were key to the brand's success, according to Ms. Arnold.

The executive came to the company in 1980 after earning an MBA at the University of Pittsburgh. Her career included a stint as brand manager of Gain and associate advertising manager for laundry products before assuming her current position in 1997.

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