By  on February 5, 2010

NEW YORK — A beautiful model without a stitch of makeup is the cornerstone of a beauty retailer’s latest efforts to sell more cosmetics.

The campaign from Ulta pairs a before-and-after image of a model as the focal point of new advertising that not only directs shoppers to Ulta’s 300-plus stores via coupons, but also encourages women to view a how-to video on Ulta’s Web site and its Facebook page to learn how to achieve the “after” look.

“The campaign goes back to the original vision of Ulta,” said Ulta president and chief executive officer Lyn Kirby. “This is a fresh and innovative extension of finding ways to deliver education, entertainment and, now, empowerment. We want our customer to know she can put on makeup and obtain a look.”

Kirby added that Ulta is all about an “approachable” experience and that’s reflected in the campaign as well as in stores where Ulta’s well-trained consultants advise shoppers on all brands across the store — mass and class.

“By featuring our model au natural, Ulta had the opportunity to demonstrate simple steps to achieve the most updated looks,” said Kirby. “We can all get the after look if we have the know how.”

The print advertising will appear in March issues of Vanity Fair, InStyle and Allure. Ulta will continue to roll out new looks in the April and May issues of other national magazines. Each new look will be paired with a corresponding how-to video on and the beauty retailer’s Facebook page. Tweets on Twitter will update followers about new looks.

The ad has a $5 off any purchase of $10 or more coupon that can be used in-store or online. Ulta has featured similar coupons in its other national advertising, which has been in place for about five years. This, however, is Ulta’s biggest push to date.

Getting a model brave enough to pose without any makeup was a challenge. Ulta’s advertising agency, LaSpata, embraced it, as did the fresh-faced model selected. “The thought of appearing makeup-free in Vanity Fair was unnerving,” said the campaign’s model, Mona Johannesson. “I was up to the challenge because I wanted to be a part of a project that teaches women how to look and feel runway ready, with the help of small makeup modifications. Even as a professional model, I find myself looking for accessible makeup application tips,” she said. “I’m excited to share with women the simple steps it takes in order to achieve your own model makeover.”

Kirby is especially excited about the positive message the campaign sends to younger girls who can see how to achieve a makeup artist look by themselves. Teen Vogue will run the April advertisements.

An unnamed makeup artist performs the makeovers using a wide array of items at varying price points sold at Ulta. Currently the company is sticking to items sold throughout the entire chain, which eliminates the use of Clinique since it is only offered in limited doors.Kirby called the videos a “constant evolution,” and she hopes instant feedback from viewers can be used to fine-tune future how-to efforts.

The items and shades are named to make it easy for consumers to buy what they need. Visitors to and the Ulta page on Facebook will be able to print out the instruction and a shopping list. At this time, there are no sponsorships from manufacturers; the items used are what the makeup artist believes achieve the look. The debut application is what Kirby describes as a “fun and flirty look” that should work on any facial shape and complexion.

There will be three more makeup videos offered over the next several months using the same model. “What’s neat is that you can see how very different the same model can look with makeup,” said Kirby.

While print has always offered avenues for makeover tips, Kirby says the added dimension of video assists women, especially because they can pause and rewind to learn a trick. Kirby loves the power of print, but says that social and digital avenues are helping support Ulta’s overall marketing message. The first how-to video goes live today, the company said.

Subsequent how-to looks will be supplemented with in-store signage and the spring print campaign is built entirely around the before-and-after strategy.

Ulta is riding high in the beauty world, a testament to its merger of mass and class brands in an environment that is welcoming. The company continues to entice new brands to its roster, such as Benefit, while continuing to be a launch pad for thriving brands, such as its role in building fans for Bare Escentuals.

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