By  on May 27, 1994

PARIS -- For years, Georges Klarsfeld, international managing director of the L'Oreal Group's Prestige and Collections designer fragrance division, has been toying with the idea of using a rock 'n' roll theme to market a fragrance.

When L'Oreal's best-selling men's scent, Drakkar Noir by Guy Laroche, slipped from No. 4 in France in 1992 to No. 5 last year, it gave Klarsfeld and other executives one reason to bring on the electric guitars and switch into four-four time.

They also saw an opportunity to connect with a new group of consumers.

"We were looking for a bridge between [consumer] age groups and a way to attract a new generation of buyers," Klarsfeld said. In the major European markets, 50 to 60 percent of users are younger than 34.

In the U.S., the majority of users are 16 to 24, according to Cosmair, L'Oreal's New York-based licensee.

"Rock music is something my generation has in common with teenagers today," said the 45-year-old Klarsfeld, who is a longtime Rolling Stones fan. He recruited director Jean-Baptiste Mondino, whose credits include Madonna's "Justify My Love" video.

Working with the Delacroix-McCann agency in Paris, which handles the Laroche account, L'Oreal scrapped the ultra-macho, muscle-man image first developed for Drakkar's 1982 launch.

Instead, Mondino's 30-second TV spot, which will bow in France next Tuesday and runs through Father's Day on June 19, features a pop star and all the trappings of his trade -- bodyguards, a black stretch limo and a mob of screaming fans. Production costs totaled $625,000 (3.5 million francs), according to L'Oreal.

Originally, L'Oreal had looked into buying the rights to a Led Zeppelin tune, but when the price climbed to $1 million, the company instead commissioned a piece by David Was, co-producer of the Rolling Stones, the B-52s and Iggy Pop. The TV campaign will be accompanied by print ads and a bus shelter campaign for seven days, starting June 16.

L'Oreal does not break out budgets, but sources estimate that $1.8 million to $2.7 million (10 million to 15 million francs, respectively) will be spent on advertising in France. There will also be gift-with-purchase promotions for Father's Day, including T-shirts and sunglasses, Klarsfeld said.Even before its debut, the French advertising trade press has hailed the campaign as a rare example of a company willing to take the risk of completely remaking an estimated $100 million brand in order to improve sales.

Klarsfeld said the campaign would be rolled out internationally, beginning this summer.

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