Media Evolved

Dermablend's 'Zombie Boy' Viral Shows Big-Budget L'Oreal Can Think Small

But With TV and Print Spending Intact, Traditional Media not Yet Among Living Dead

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L'Oreal USA spends more than a billion dollars annually on measured media, and as it has moved money rapidly into digital media in recent years, most of that targets consumers evaluating products they already know about.

But the "Zombie Boy" viral video campaign for one of the smallest of the company's 23 brands -- Dermablend professional skincare and cosmetics -- is showing the company can also go the low-budget route to generate awareness for little-known and new products.

Speaking at the Advertising Age Media Evolved conference in New York Nov. 15, L'Oreal USA Chief Marketing Officer Marc Speichert said a video from Tuxedo, Montreal, for Dermablend featuring extensively tattooed "Zombie Boy" Rick Genest generated 5.7 million views in its first 10 days in late October. The video also has generated more than 200 million media impressions, including being featured on the Thomson Reuters video billboard on Times Square.

The "Go Beyond the Cover" video is the centerpiece for marketing Dermablend Leg and Body Cover and Tattoo Primer -- a line of products aimed largely at covering up tattoos, as well as such things as varicose veins and bruises.

Mr. Genest, featured earlier this year in a Lady Gaga Video, generally wears his tattoos proudly, which is pretty much inevitable as his face is decorated in zombie motif. He's spent the past decade having just about every inch of his body tattooed. So he's the torture test for tattoo cover-up products.

The first of a pair of videos from Tuxedo shows the reverse process of applying the cover-up cosmetics, so Mr. Genest appears to be revealing his ink slowly.

The second "Behind the Scenes" video is more product focused, showing how the Dermablend products accomplished the cover-up process.

"It shows even a small brand can have a program that have some great ideas that bring to life what the brand is all about," Mr. Speichert said.

L'Oreal has spent little on paid media to fuel video views, beyond some modest search advertising, Mr. Speichert said in an interview after his talk.

More broadly, while L'Oreal has grown digital spending extensively, spending as much there in 2011 as it spent the prior two years combined, much of that has been spent on content creation, such as the Zombie Boy video, its own site, or a series of 29,000 highly specialized beauty articles via Demand Media aimed at capturing increasingly detailed consumer beauty searches, he said.

Still, that doesn't leave paid media entirely among the living dead. Mr. Speichert said the digital-spending increase hasn't come at the expense of TV or print, which continue to be staples of awareness-building for L'Oreal brands.

"Traditional media becomes that amplifier and springboard for the digital work," he said. "That consideration phase is still critical, and to get that breakthrough, traditional media remain very important."

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