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The location wasn’t the only thing that changed at this year’s edition of the Personal Care Products Council Annual Meeting.
Held at the Breakers in Palm Beach, Fla. — moving away from the Boca Raton Resort and Club for the first time in decades — the meeting also marked a seismic shift in priorities for the organization formerly known as CTFA. While domestic lobbying on issues of regulatory legislation will remain an important priority for the organization, its chairman is putting an unprecedented emphasis on international affairs, a sharp departure from past attitudes. About 460 industry executives attended the three-day meeting, which ended March 3.
“I understand that this may seem new, that our association in the past tended to focus on domestic issues,” said Dan Brestle, chairman of PCPC. “But the world has changed, and our association is changing also. This means more direct engagement between the association and foreign regulators and U.S. trade officials. It means more dialogue and sharing across associations, which I am glad to see happening here in Palm Beach. And it means partnering where we can with our sister associations to facilitate common understandings and solutions.” Chief among them is COLIPA, Europe’s version of PCPC, and which is the second-largest association next to PCPC, said Brestle. Representatives from COLIPA, as well as Japan, Mexico, Colombia, Australia, Canada and South Korea, attended the meeting.
“Over the last five years, the Council has ramped up its efforts to align global regulatory standards for our products and to eliminate trade barriers, but there is much more to be done,” said Brestle. “For instance, last spring China began implementing complex new rules for cosmetics companies that have dramatically slowed new product approvals and increased our costs. These ambiguous new rules are greatly limiting our access to this important market…I believe this issue highlights the need for our association to be both global and local in its orientation to help us maximize our growth and minimize risk.”
Legislation and consumer communication round out PCPC’s major priorities, said Brestle.
A major federal priority for PCPC in recent years has been Congressional funding for the Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Colors and Cosmetics. In 2010 PCPC faced “significantly flawed federal legislation” [the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2010, introduced in Congress last July by Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Edward Markey (D-MA) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)] said Brestle, which would have “put an impossible burden on FDA and created a mammoth new regulatory structure that simply wouldn’t have made our products any safer.” In response, PCPC helped introduce more manageable legislation. “It’s in our best interest to work with the FDA,” said Brestle. “I’d rather deal with the FDA than 50 state legislatures.”
Lezlee Westine, president and chief executive officer of PCPC, outlined key Council accomplishments in 2010 — including working to harmonize global regulations and representing the industry’s interests before Chinese officials — and gave an overview of goals for the coming year. They include keeping a close eye on India and Russia, as well as new global rules and responsibilities for biodiversity. John Hurson, executive vice president, global affairs, of PCPC, noted that two types of legislation were of concern: children’s bills which define children as 18 years of age or younger, and extended producer responsibility bills — which could require member companies to pay a disposal fee to the state for empty cosmetics containers. Francine Lamoriello, executive vice president, global strategies for PCPC, noted that China will continue to be a major issue for the council and that the organization would continue to make inroads.
The chemicals used in hair straightening are another issue on PCPC’s radar. On March 4, the Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel, an independent, nonprofit body of scientific and medical experts that assesses the safety of ingredients used in cosmetics in the U.S., reached a tentative conclusion on the safety of formaldehyde and methylene glycol as they are used in cosmetics and in “professional use only” hair straightening and smoothing products. The panel reaffirmed its 2005 conclusion that formaldehyde and methylene glycol are safe in cosmetic products when formulated to ensure use at the minimal effective concentration and reiterated that amounts used in formulations should not exceed 0.2 percent measured as free formaldehyde. However, the panel said “it could not conclude that formaldehyde-methylene glycol is safe in cosmetic products intended to be aerosolized or in which formaldehyde-methylene glycol vapor or gas will be produced under conditions of use.”
On Wednesday, John Bailey, executive vice president, science for PCPC, made an additional statement. “PCPC joined FDA and consumer groups several months ago in requesting that CIR review the safety of formaldehyde-methylene glycol as they are used in professional hair straightening and smoothing products, and we support these tentative findings of the CIR Expert Panel. Until the review is completed and regulatory authorities have had the opportunity to assess it and come to their own conclusions, we urge consumers to exercise caution in using these products. Safe and proper use depends largely on the ventilation in the salon and the application procedure. For this reason, we strongly advise consumers and beauticians not to use professional hair-straightening products in the home.”
Communications challenges also are of concern. “The nature of our complex digital world, where speed is more important than accuracy, presents enormous challenges,” said Brestle. For instance, he noted, a “shockumentary” video titled “The Story of Cosmetics” was launched on YouTube last summer by activists. “It was timed to coincide with the introduction of legislation,” said Brestle. “Within two weeks, the video had been viewed by 350,000 people around the world.” As well, Brestle said, a majority of consumers say they rely on social media networks to guide their purchase decisions. “And just like Match.com, who ever tells the truth on Facebook?” said Brestle. As a result, PCPC is using Twitter, producing new video content for YouTube, promoting association programs through LinkedIn and reaching out to blogger communities. “But this is an area in which we also need to do more and invest more,” said Brestle. “The Council’s Strategic Initiatives Committee, chaired by [Procter and Gamble’s] Ed Shirley, is exploring new ways in which we can come together as an industry to tell our story and get the truth out about our products.”
Futurist Jim Carroll’s speech underlined the importance of technological innovation by doing a live text message poll during his presentation; audience members were asked when they believe the industry will see an economic recovery. (The overwhelming majority said six months to two years in the future.)
Speaking of living in the future, Carroll noted that “business certainties going forward are that there will be more sophisticated competition and continuous business-model disruptions. The ability to speed up the pipeline will drive the business. It took Apple two years to sell two million iPhones — and two months to sell the same number of iPads.”
Carroll also strongly urged companies to examine how they use Facebook and Twitter, given that more than 147 million use social networking applications on their iPhones. That’s a message that Scott Beattie, president, chairman and ceo of Elizabeth Arden, took to heart years ago. Arden was an early pioneer in the beauty field for using digital platforms such as Twitter and Facebook to promote its products. “The beauty of digital [promotion and advertising] is that it is leveragable globally,” said Beattie. “Traditional media has to evolve with that. If it is not leveragable, it becomes extinct.”
Keynote speaker Joshua Cooper Ramo noted the “constant and persistent disruption” in the world today and challenged attendees to view an increasingly complex and wired world with a broader perspective. A ceo panel with Beattie; Thia Breen, president, North America, for Estée Lauder, and Stefano Curti, president, Johnson & Johnson Consumer Products Company Beauty, followed, reflecting on Ramo’s insights and sharing how their companies are navigating the current business environment.
In addition, a number of companies unveiled new product launches and spokesperson deals. Among them was Beiersdorf, which has run up large gains in the lip care, hand and body wash and men’s categories in the past few years, and also brought some celebrity news. The company felt so strongly about the value of its disclosure that it required attending editors to sign confidentiality agreements (so much for confidentiality: the next day, due to a leak in the U.K., the company announced that it had signed Rihanna as a spokesperson). Others were a bit more eager for editors to get the word out: Coty unveiled its launch schedule for the remainder of 2011, while Clarins’ ceo for the U.S., Jonathan Zrihen, discussed new directions for his brand in the U.S. Chief among them is a greater emphasis on the in-store experience in the brand’s roughly 1,000 U.S. doors. “Instead of just making the brand available, we have to create desire and bring customers to the store,” said Zrihen. To that end, the brand has hired celebrity makeup artist Pati Dubroff to help develop products and make in-store appearances, has dropped prices on certain items including cleansers and toners, and is ramping up for a “significant” ad campaign later this year. Zrihen, who admitted that the brand’s share of voice has been “nonexistent” lately, noted that he is aiming to have a budget which would put him fourth in spending for the prestige skin care category.