PLAYER PROFILE: Unilever chooses Thalberg for upscale cosmetics unit

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There was a time when nothing came between Marisa Thalberg and her Calvins, but that was before she was named to head advertising for Unilever's upscale cosmetics brands.

Although she's never worked on the jeans brand, Ms. Thalberg first joined Unilever last year overseeing advertising for Calvin Klein Cosmetics and was in charge of the designer's fragrance collection -- which includes Obsession, Eternity and Contradiction -- and Calvin Klein Color, a makeup line.

"I came here expecting to work on the Calvin Klein business. That was exciting enough," she said.


Then in June, Ms. Thalberg was promoted to VP-global advertising and production for Unilever Cosmetics International, a new unit that includes Calvin Klein Cosmetics and another newly created division, Unilever Prestige. That division will develop fragrances and cosmetics under various designer brands beyond Calvin Klein. This month, Unilever Prestige launched its first product, Latitude Longitude, a men's fragrance, under a licensing deal with Nautica Apparel, and it has signed similar deals with designer Vera Wang and BCBG Max Azria.

"While we're still rooted in Calvin Klein, we can take that marketing expertise to other fragrances," Ms. Thalberg said.

Sitting at her desk under a trio of pictures of Christy Turlington -- the longtime face of Eternity's ad campaign -- Ms. Thalberg mused that her position at Unilever is a logical progression. "I kind of grew up on the agency side," Ms. Thalberg said. She began her ad career in 1991 as an account manager at Saatchi & Saatchi, New York, and entered the beauty industry as an account supervisor at J. Walter Thompson USA, when the agency handled advertising for Clairol.

After leaving JWT, she remained in the fashion and beauty arena, including a stint as producer on "Money/Style/Power," a lifestyle program for women which was part of Dow Jones & Co.'s now-defunct TV joint venture with ITT Corp. In 1997, she returned to agency work and the beauty business as VP-management supervisor at Revlon's in-house agency, Tarlow Advertising, where she handled Revlon's color cosmetics, Ultima II, fragrance and Professional Products divisions. "It's been fun," she said. "The whole psychology of the business interests me."


She admits it takes a lot of psychology to manage three major product launches in one year. Unilever Cosmetics International started the year with the spring launch of Calvin Klein Color, then prepared for launching both the new Klein fragrance, Truth Calvin Klein, and Latitude Longitude, in August. Creative for the two Klein launches was handled by Calvin Klein's in-house agency, CRK Advertising; Toth Brand Imaging, Concord, Mass., handled the Nautica fragrance.

The next challenges will be launches of the Vera Wang and BCBG fragrances, expected in stores next year. The creative accounts for the fragrances have not been assigned yet and launch plans are still being developed, she said.

As if that wasn't enough, Ms. Thalberg has another delivery on deck by yearend: Her first child is due in December. "Our fourth launch this year," she joked.

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