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Turn on MTV these days and amid all the commercials for candy, acne medicines and styling gels, one is likely to see a spot for ... Rogaine?

Yes, Rogaine, Upjohn Co.'s topical treatment for hair loss.

The company's latest ad campaign, featuring the hat-wearing "Lois," is skewing younger and more toward women than any previous effort. Print ads lead with the line, "Lois never thought she'd have thinning hair at 25." The 60-second TV spot featuring "Lois" is running frequently on MTV and other national cable shows, plus in a variety of local and national spot buys.

The ads are part of an estimated $20 million marketing campaign that also includes a new TV spot for men. They are the first Rogaine work from Kobs & Draft, New York, since it won the account from Klemtner Advertising in mid-1993.

"We've tried to advertise to women twice since the product was approved for their use in September 1991," said Amanda Hutcherson, director-U.S. marketing for Rogaine. This time, the ads speak to a younger woman and are "more emotional and nurturing than we've been in the past."

So far, the approach seems to be working. More than half of calls to the toll-free information line highlighted in each ad are from women, even though only 20 million women suffer from hair loss vs. 30 million men, according to Upjohn.

The company is so convinced of its appeal to the female market that it's creating the first-ever infomercial for a prescription drug. Targeted completely at women, the 30-minute ad will go before the Food & Drug Administration for approval in March.

David Florence, general manager at Kobs & Draft, thinks Rogaine's appeal to young women owes a lot to their readiness to seek medical help for a problem.

"Men are much less willing to go to a doctor, and you must go to a doctor to get Rogaine," he said. "Women are also more willing to take preventative measures, and Rogaine works better the sooner you start using it."

Others argue Rogaine's appeal could owe as much to fashion as healthcare concerns. Big, full hair is a growing trend, as evidenced by the increase in hair extension and hair "enhancement" salons in many major cities.

Howard Josephson, president of SHE, for Studio of Hair Enhancement, which opened in Manhattan a month ago specifically for women, called thick hair "a very, very hot new issue for women. No one's paid attention to it before. But many of the hair replacement studios, which previously catered only to men, are now beginning to advertise to women as well."

He called response to his salon's print ads, from Zack Advertising, "astounding. We get many, many hundreds of calls the day after an ad runs."

Women lose hair differently from men, Upjohn said. For women, hair loss is diffuse; for men it tends to happen in concentrated areas of the scalp, which is more noticeable. Still, women may feel societal pressures about hair loss that men don't confront.

"It's acceptable for men to be bald," Mr. Florence said. "Men can choose baldness and walk down the street without people turning around to look at them. But women probably do feel more self-conscious about it."

Whatever the reasons for Rogaine's greater appeal among women, Upjohn can't be faulted for targeting a market that responds, said John Lister, ceo-creative director of corporate identity consultancy Lister Butler.

"They're doing two things: capitalizing on a fashion trend and at the same time making use of their image as a medical product. If it works, great. They're not responsible for fashion trends," he said.

In addition to the infomercial, Upjohn plans a series of back-end relationship marketing programs later this year.

"That's one of the reasons we went with Kobs & Draft," said a company spokesman. "Working with a database, we want to get at current users as well as people calling in to our 800-number. It's a change in direction for us."

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