NEW YORK — Wonderbra may be getting a facelift, but the hype and hoopla synonymous with the brand hasn’t changed.

Kicking off a multimillion-dollar advertising and marketing campaign here Wednesday, the new look of Sara Lee’s $170 million cleavage-enhancing bra brand — as well as the new Wonderbra model, Maja — was unveiled on a huge billboard two stories above Times Square. Billboards were simultaneously unveiled in Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, Houston and San Francisco.

Photographed by Peter Lindbergh, the campaign will be expanded to include national print ads in spring 2005, said Diane Ridgway-Cross, brand manager for Wonderbra. “We selected Maja because she embodies sexiness, confidence and a certain attitude,” said Ridgway-Cross, noting that the campaign’s annual budget is in excess of $5 million, “significantly more than in the past few years.” She added that Wonderbra currently has an “80 percent brand recognition among consumers.”

The new Wonderbra tag line, “The Wonder Is You,” reflects the updated approach of the brand and is in stark contrast to former lines like “Daddy’s Worst Nightmare,” “Hello Boys” and “Whiplash Warning Zone.” One of the headlines for the new ads — one of which shows Maja wearing a magnolia-embroidered black push-up number from the Extravagance collection — says, “Yes They Are, Thank You.”

The new visuals and tag lines will also be featured on hang tags and point-of-sale materials, said Ridgway-Cross, noting that an appearance by Maja at Macy’s Herald Square later on Wednesday had a turnout of “hundreds of Wonderbra fans.”

Katie Walton, vice president and director of account services for KraftWorks, the New York-based ad agency that created the campaign, described the appeal of Wonderbra’s new image to women this way: “This is a brand that speaks to her and empowers her. It’s not a brand that’s sexy to a man, but it’s sexy to her. It gives a woman the confidence to take on the world. And Maja has that look.”

Reminiscent of publicity stunts in May 1994 when Wonderbras were delivered to major stores via helicopter, skydivers and armored Brinks trucks, the 10th anniversary event was consummated with a black Wonderbra-clad Maja being lowered by a cherry picker onto Times Square, as traffic came to a grinding halt and a melting pot of tourists in double-decker buses, construction workers and NYPD officers ogled the surreal scene.One police officer, Mark A. Iocco, a special day squad supervisor, was on hand to escort Maja across 45th Street for a photo op when she spontaneously wrapped an arm around him. “It felt good. He’s a cute policeman,” she quipped.

Asked how it felt to be photographed in Times Square with a model wearing a bra, Iocco said: “I was trying to keep her safe. I was nervous. This never happened to me before. But there’s always the first time for everything for the NYPD.”

Maja, a native of Serbia, was discovered by talent agent Jen Starr in Sara Lee’s worldwide search for a model who epitomizes Wonderbra’s new image of empowerment, confidence and sex appeal. She follows in the footsteps of three other models: Madison (now known as Madison Michele), Sarah O’Hare and Eva Herzigova, the beauty from the Czech Republic, whom Maja said has been a mentor and friend for two years.

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