By and  on January 27, 2006

NEW YORK — L'Oréal Paris is in experimental mode.

The L'Oréal USA division has formed an in-house creative boutique, The Image Lab, headed by chief image director Douglas Toews. The lab looks to serve as both an in-house ad agency as well as a think tank to help mold new product ideas from inception to concept, through to creative direction, and ultimately to create out-of-the-box messages tailored for today's fast-paced consumer.

McCann Erickson and La Micela New York will remain L'Oréal Paris' advertising agencies of record, but Image Lab will focus on projects that have the opportunity to reshape L'Oréal's image.

"We work to constantly be innovative, not only in our products, but in the way we creatively relate to our consumer base. It's better to work with more than one source and really play off each other because that creates, I would say, this more inspired creativity," said Carol Hamilton, president of L'Oréal Paris.

Toews (pronounced Taves) is no stranger to the beauty giant, or to the beauty industry. His career has been almost entirely in beauty, with the past three years spent as a consultant for L'Oréal Paris. He also served as creative director for the brand when he worked for McCann Erickson. Toews has touched many other beauty brands, including Coty's Rimmel London, Lancaster, Yue Sai Kan, The Healing Garden and Calgon, when he was executive creative director there. He was also creative director for The Limited Stores, and has worked on brands including Davidoff Cool Water, Jil Sander, Douglas Perfumeries, Chopard Fragrances, Joop and Shiseido.

A good part of his career, too, has been spent traveling the world. He went to high school in Germany. He's lived in Paris, Montreal, New York and San Francisco. And when he worked for Coty, he lived half the year in London and the other half in New York and China. He speaks French, German and English fluently.

Bringing this global point of view to L'Oréal Paris is what he described as "required, not extra." And as a result of his travels, he may even overestimate people's knowledge of the world we live in.

"Everyone knows that in Korea they're light years ahead of us in terms of creativity and high-speed networks and the way people use cell phones. And the grocery stores in Tokyo? It's like shopping in Neiman Marcus," said Toews.

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