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Zeta-Jones: Facing Forward

Catherine Zeta-Jones has a vested interest — quite literally — in Elizabeth Arden.

Catherine Zeta-Jones in Elizabeth Arden's newest ad campaign.

Catherine Zeta-Jones has a vested interest — quite literally — in Elizabeth Arden.

This story first appeared in the March 7, 2008 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

“I’m a stockholder, not just the face,” said the Academy Award-winning actress, clad in a formfitting Oscar de la Renta navy dress and towering black patent Giuseppe Zanotti stilettos (“I don’t know how I walk in these, I’m more used to flip-flops!”) during an interview at the St. Regis hotel Thursday afternoon.

While noting that the nearly century-old beauty brand has always been a classic, Zeta-Jones credited Scott Beattie, chairman and chief executive officer of Elizabeth Arden Inc., with making over what was once a slumbering dowager of a brand into a more youthful version. “Scott has worked hard to give this brand a younger, fresher look,” said Zeta-Jones, “and it has worked. He’s zapped it up in a new direction. It’s been exciting to see that over the last six years of our partnership, which has been very collaborative — I’ve had input on [ad] campaigns, and brought some of my own people in to do the styling.”

She’s particularly fond of an upcoming campaign for the brand’s Color Intrigue Effects lipstick line. Shot by Michael Thompson, Zeta-Jones joked that she looks like, “I should be in a more modern version of ‘Valley of the Dolls.’ But after doing this for six years, I think that’s good. It’s different, it’s not like, ‘oh, there’s Catherine Zeta-Jones again!'”

Zeta-Jones was signed to her spokeswoman role in February 2002, at a time when Arden’s fortunes were decidedly mixed. Sales were floundering, and Elizabeth Taylor was the youngest spokeswoman on the roster. The Welsh beauty was the first in a string of celebrities that Beattie would sign — Hilary Duff, Mariah Carey and Britney Spears were among those who followed.

“Catherine’s been an icon — her elegance and beauty characterizes what we want Arden to be,” said Beattie, noting that signing Zeta-Jones made a younger generation sit up and take notice of his brand. “She’s been a great partner.”

What the deal is not likely to yield, despite Arden’s prowess in the celebrity fragrance market, is a Catherine Zeta-Jones fragrance. “We’ve made a conscious decision about that, because I am the face and spokesperson for Arden,” she said. “I think we’re all in unison that if it’s not broke, why fix it.” Also, she noted about endorsements, “Things have completely changed. It used to be, if you’re an actor, why are you selling stuff? People only used to do it in Japan. But beauty is an industry that makes complete sense for an actress.”

Zeta-Jones is off to Australia today for a four-day jaunt promoting “Death Defying Acts,” her latest film (“I’m very lucky — I can sleep on planes, which drives my husband nuts because he can’t!”) and said she will continue work on a script for “Racing the Monsoon,” an adventure film that will also feature her husband, Michael Douglas. “We don’t play lovers — he actually hates me in the movie, which is even better,” she said with a laugh.

Her dream project? “I’m working to do a movie about Lana Turner,” she said, adding that she is developing the project with a screenwriter. “My father-in-law [actor Kirk Douglas] worked with Lana Turner [on the 1952 drama ‘The Bad and the Beautiful,’] so I have a lot of background stories and information about her. It was really a crazy life when you think about it — her daughter stabbing her lover.”

Earlier Thursday, Zeta-Jones snipped the ribbon on Arden’s updated Fifth Avenue flagship, and had breakfast with beauty editors to help introduce the aforementioned Color Intrigue Effects lipstick, which will bow in the U.S. at the end of May.

According to Elizabeth Park, executive vice president of global marketing and general manager of Elizabeth Arden U.S., Color Intrigue Effects’ cocktail of three advanced esters is what sets it apart from other lipsticks in the Arden portfolio.

Added Bonnie Beer, vice president of global color marketing for Elizabeth Arden, “These esters, which comprise our proprietary triple emollient technology, make this formula immediately moisturizing and long-lasting.”

The 18 shades Arden will release in the U.S. are broken down into three finish families: shimmer, cream and high-impact pearls. Each will retail for $19.50. Globally, 22 shades will be sold.

Color Intrigue Effects will be available in about 2,000 U.S. department and specialty store doors.

National print advertising will begin running in July fashion, beauty and lifestyle magazines. Arden also plans an intensive sampling campaign, with more than one million pieces planned. About half of those will be samplers that preview all three lipstick finishes, said Beer. A new counter merchandising tower is also on deck, as is an extensive Internet marketing campaign.

While executives declined to discuss sales projections, industry sources estimated that the Color Intrigue Effects lineup would generate global retail sales of $10 million, with about $4 million of that figure expected to be done in the U.S. Sources estimated that Arden will spend $4 million globally on advertising and promotional efforts.