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Burt’s Bees Ads Aim to Sting Fakes

"Buyer, Be Awware" is the gist of Burt's Bees' new national ad campaign, set to launch in March health and beauty magazines.

BUYER, BE AWARE.

That’s the gist of Burt’s Bees’ new national print ad campaign, which is launching in March health and beauty magazines and has been designed to help consumers identify ingredients that aren’t natural even though they may be used in items claiming to be natural.

The Raleigh, N.C.-based company, which was purchased by Clorox for $920 million in November, has always made it a mission to use natural ingredients as an alternative to synthetic ones when available. What confuses consumers, according to the company, are when brands use the word natural in packaging, brand names and marketing but use sulphates and parabens, ingredients that are largely deemed unacceptable by the natural community, in formulas.

The print advertisements spell out specific ingredients consumers should be wary of, without naming the companies using them. In the two ads launching in March, one featuring lip balm gives the definition of petrolatum and the other ad featuring body lotion defines dmdm hydantoin. The lip balm ad describes petrolatum as a “nonrenewable hydrocarbon made from crude oil…sometimes used to stop corrosion on car batteries” and the lotion ad explains that dmdm hydantoin is “a chemical preservative linked to skin irritation…[that] can release formaldehyde, a suspected carcinogen.”

Another four ads are slated for the balance of the year and will address hair care and face care.

“All we want is to focus on educating the consumer,” said Mike Indursky, the firm’s chief marketing and strategic officer. “We have no intention at all to impugn the integrity of any other brand. All the ingredients named in the ads are [U.S. Food and Drug Administration] approved, but they shouldn’t be in products that call themselves natural.”

Indursky and his team have tapped Pool Inc., a boutique advertising agency in New York, to help create the campaign.

Indursky said that in qualitative and quantitative research, the target market for the ads left “many consumers saying they would be more careful to read labels.”

The use of synthetic ingredients in beauty products has become accepted by manufacturers, Indursky said, as the evolution of chemistry showed that synthetics pose a cheaper and more reliable alternative to natural ingredients.

“One day an orange can be sweet and on another day it isn’t. It’s not as consistent an experience in manufacturing. That’s why synthetics are easier to use, but natural is every bit as efficacious, it’s just not as easy.”

The ads cost upward of $10 million, said Indursky.

While this campaign marks a first for the industry in terms of attempting to educate consumers on natural items, Burt’s Bees did launch a short-lived ad campaign at the end of 2005. But the campaign fell short of capturing what the company wanted to communicate.

“The trend in natural is so serious and education is so serious that it was important to get it right. [The new ads] really try to capture beauty at the same time. We wanted to show real people with great lips and skin but not your typical beauty model. This is beauty anyone can get. It’s not about a celebrity,” Indursky said.

The timing of the ads will likely coincide with the announcement of a natural care seal, an effort Indursky spearheaded with the Natural Products Association last year that will set a standard on what will be deemed natural in personal care products. Eligible products will be able to feature the seal in packaging and marketing.

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