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Beiersdorf, Procter & Gamble and L'Oreal are playing it by the numbers in a race to introduce new facial care lines in Europe and beyond for women over age 45.

Eyeing a potential bonanza of 60 million women aged 50-plus in Western Europe alone, beauty care marketers are expanding away from their obsession with the young. Beiersdorf, which kicked off the trend with Nivea Vital, a line testing in Switzerland since last May, (AAI, June 20, '94) is expanding that successful franchise into Germany, France, the Benelux countries and Austria as a prelude to a full Western European rollout. And the company might have global ambitions for the line: A spokeswoman said the company has applied for a worldwide patent.

Hot on Beiersdorf's heels is L'Oreal, which is rushing to roll out Revitaliste skin care cream in Europe by summer and has plans to bring it to the U.S. by September. The five-product line, aimed at women aged 45-50-a slightly younger target than Nivea Visage-hits French stores this month supported with a TV campaign breaking in May from Publicis Paris. A huge sampling effort will also put six to seven million samples into French women's hands this spring.

"This is a frontal assault," said a L'Oreal official. "We're not bothering with testing or measuring response in one market before launching into others. This is more or less a global rollout in three successive waves."

Not to be left behind, P&G is testing Pro Vital, a three-product facial care line under the Oil of Olay name in Belgium and the Netherlands but also slated for Germany and perhaps the rest of Europe by June, said an executive familiar with the plans. Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising is handling.

"Everyone is going after the senior sector," said the L'Oreal executive. "We had to get a product positioned towards that [age group]."

Aware of the onrushing competition, Beiersforf pushed up its $10 million effort for Nivea Vital. The company starts a TV campaign in Germany late this month, followed by a print ad breaking in 22 magazines in June. TBWA, Hamburg, is the lead agency for the push, although the shop's Zurich office, GBBS/TBWA, will assist. Beiersdorf is continuing to use 53-year-old model Susanne Sch”nborn in its commercials, the same strategy used in the Swiss test market.

In that test, Nivea Vital's share of the $64 million facial care category rose from zero to 6.2% for the seven months ended in December, while managing not to cannibalize Nivea Visage, which grew from 32.5% of the facial care category to 32.9% during the same period, according to A.C. Nielsen, Frankfurt.

Beiersdorf said given that runaway success, competition was inevitable. "We noticed that our competitiors at P&G and L'Oreal are acting very fast now," said Beiersdorf's Swiss General Manager Daniel N. Tobler.

He added that Beiersdorf's line is the most comprehensive of the three, including a night cream, day cream, tinted day cream, facial wash and concentrated liquid anti-aging capsules. The product claims to improve older skin by improving metabolism that enables younger skin cells to grow.

L'Oreal denies its product is a knockoff. "Nivea may have been ahead of us in creating products for seniors, but we feel that with Revitaliste we've created a single cream that is more effective for older women than the five Nivea products combined," said the official.

P&G wouldn't comment on plans for its Pro Vital line.

Even without the older women's line, Nivea has already cut a wide swath across the $2.07 billion European facial care category. Last year, its Visage line climbed from an 11% share of the category to 15% in Western Europe, while Oil of Olay fell from 11% to 10% and L'Oreal's Plentitude slid from 13% to 12%, Nielsen said.

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