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The world's largest cosmetics company and Europe's leading marketer of blades and razors will engage in a corporate battle of the sexes when they both introduce mass market lines of men's toiletries in Europe this spring.

L'Oreal, known for its strong franchise with women, is bringing out Start, its first mass marketed men's toiletry line. Gillette Co., trading on its "the best a man can get" machismo, is expanding onto the Continent its Series line of men's toiletries, introduced in the U.S., U.K. and Canada last year.

Men's grooming aids translate into big money in Europe, ranging from $2 billion to $3 billion depending on varying estimates. But both companies are hoping to capitalize on the fact that the category isn't yet dominated by strong line franchises across the region.

To accomplish that, Gillette and L'Oreal are expected to spend more than $50 million in advertising as the two lines roll out. Gillette last year touted a North Atlantic budget of $125 million, including $75 million in advertising for the first three countries, with about $10 million devoted to the U.K.

BBDO, New York, handles Gillette's Series line, working with its other offices and affiliates for media buying and local executions. Publicis, Paris, is the agency for Start in France and is expected to handle the line globally.

L'Oreal over the years has upped its ad spending as it has added more mass market lines. Start is appearing in France this month, with print and TV advertising breaking in May, while Series advertising is set to break first in the Netherlands the second week in April and will move to other Western European markets by May.

L'Oreal will not disclose when Start will expand out of the France, but industry execs said other European markets will be added quickly to be followed by the U.S. and other countries.

The 12-item Start line includes four shaving mousses for different beard and skin types, three after shaves, one moisturizer and four deodorants. Prices range from $3 to $4.50.

Although L'Oreal has men's experience, it is confined to upscale department stores with prestige fragrances, such as Ralph Lauren and Giorgio Armani.

The Start line, by contrast, will be everywhere from hypermarkets and supermarkets to small stores, said Nicolas Jeronimus, marketing director of L'Oreal's Laboratoires Garnier subsidiary, which has mass market experience but only in women's lines.

Neither L'Oreal nor Publicis would discuss the consumer ad strategy, but trade ads running this month in France play up the line's treatment properties. Ads, showing the smart white, yellow and navy blue packaging say Start is "twice as good for the skin" and claim it is the first 2-in-1 line for men.

For Start, the two attributes are "efficiency and care adapted to each skin type" in one product.

Some 80% of men indicate they want to take care of their skin, Mr. Jeronimus said, but only one in seven uses a skin care product, he said. "They say they don't have the time or desire to do it. We're offering efficiency and care in one sole gesture."

Gillette, meanwhile, will take its integrated megabrand marketing machine to the Continent to introduce its Series shaving preparations, aftershave conditioners and splash.

The deodorants/antiperspirants that are part of the line in the other countries will be added later because of the complexities of varying preferences of product in different countries, said Bob Leger, VP-business management, Gillette's North Atlantic division, Boston.

Pricing will vary according to country, but in the U.K., the items range from about $2.50 for a shaving preparation to $6.50 for a skin conditioner.

Gillette's strategy is to leverage its strength as the dominant force in blades and razors in Europe into other male grooming areas.

"There are 75 million men in North America and Europe who shave with Gillette products," Mr. Leger said. "Our idea is to capitalize on the products we already have ... [to create] a fraternity of Gillette products."

Gillette will use footage from its earlier Series advertising edited for each country with locally-specific audio. TV spots show men in different roles, while audio discusses the heritage of Gillette in shaving products.

Gillette also plans a magazine schedule and heavy sampling and cross promotion with Sensor Excel and other razor products.

According to Nicholas Hall & Co., a research-based publishing company in Southend-on-Sea, England, a grooming regimen for men is becoming increasingly important.

Unilever's Axe line (called Lynx in the U.K.) and Beiersdorf's Nivea for Men are the closest broadly marketed rivals. But Unilever's European share for all its men's lines, led by Axe/Lynx is only about 7%, roughly the same as Beiersdorf's, led by Nivea.

Strength of the segments vary by country. For example, fragrances are strong in France, while deodorants are important in Germany. And major multinationals are big players in various segments and countries, including the likes of Procter & Gamble, Henkel, Colgate-Palmolive's Mennen, SmithKline Beecham and Sara Lee/Douwe Egbert.

Dagmar Mussey and Todd Pruzan contributed to this story.

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