PARIS — In an industry full of shampoo ads featuring beautiful women with voluminous, shiny locks, Sunsilk’s latest campaign comes as a bit of a shock: It’s not every day that consumers are exposed to a hideous, green-tongued gremlin spitting up slime on a hapless woman’s greasy hair.

The Unilever-owned brand’s “Monsters” ad — now being rolled out throughout Europe — breaks the traditional formula of hair care advertising. The skin-crawling, 40-second TV commercial shows ordinary women with flat, dry, damaged and oily hair in everyday situations being attacked by monsters, animated troll-like creatures that flatten, break, tangle and grease shameful tresses. Only at the end of the spot, when one of the creatures swirls helplessly down a bathtub drain, is there the proverbial shot of bouncy, glossy hair, accompanied by a voice-over saying: “Goodbye monstrous hair.”

“We wanted to break the code of slow-motion, beautiful hair pornography,” said Andrea Stillacci, JWT Paris’ executive creative director, who helped dream up the ad. “The position of the brand is that it understands women. It doesn’t show models and aspirational images of unreachable beauty. So, the visualization of hair problems with monsters is something every woman can relate to. You have bad hair days and you hate your hair.”

The TV spot, part of a multimedia ad campaign, was created by a team of special effects artists and animators, including San Jun Lee, who drew up creatures in movies such as “Men in Black” and “Star Wars 3.” Produced over a three-month period, the last commercial in Sunsilk’s latest ad campaign is the most striking, all directed by JWT and portraying hair problems with lightness and humor. These include a “hair-clip” campaign, still images featuring a life buoy hair clip for tresses in distress and a ringmaster hair clip for taming frizzy hair, which began rolling out in 2003, when Sunsilk was relaunched in Europe with an all-new formula and packaging.

The brand has since seen double-digit growth and now makes up 5 percent of Europe’s total market share in shampoo and conditioners, said Corinne Duquin, marketing manager for Sunsilk Europe. She added that Sunsilk, relaunched in Asia and Latin America five years ago, is the number-two shampoo and conditioner brand worldwide.

This story first appeared in the May 13, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

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Like Unilever’s other leading brand, Dove, whose ads feature “real” women models, Sunsilk credits some of its success to its message that speaks to women in their own language.

“Whether it’s Dove or Sunsilk, we are trying to be closer to real women,” said Duquin. “We don’t want to impose on women a view of beauty. We just want to say, ‘We have solutions for you.'”

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