Everyone likes a mystery.

This story first appeared in the November 25, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

And for the past several weeks, Pantene has treated women to a dose of the unknown with its latest advertising campaign, “Salon Challenge,” which is meant to educate women on a recent blind hair care challenge the brand held. The event saw 70 percent of participants say they favored one brand in particular — out of five used in the wash-and-style challenge — whose name wasn’t revealed.

On Monday, however, women learned via e-mail, TV ads and in-store displays that the brand most of them fell in love with was Pantene, which went up against four leading salon brands sold at retail. Spots feature Stacy London of “What Not to Wear,” who is the newest spokeswoman for the brand.

Freddy Bharucha, marketing director for Pantene, devised the idea to compete against salon brands after learning from Procter & Gamble’s research and development team how much they believed in Pantene’s formulas.

“R&D was saying how [Pantene] is the best stuff out there. Better than any retail brands. I asked them if they would put their money where their mouth is, and they took on the challenge,” said Bharucha.

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At the heart of the challenge was driving home the point that Pantene competes with best-selling professional brands for a fraction of the price.

“As we experience tough times in the economy, there was a value system in how much [consumers can] get from this technology and the brand. We don’t have the most fancy package. We have a pretty good package. But we know it’s the juice and the technology and what it does to her hair” that makes Pantene popular.

London, said Bharucha, was a natural for the brand, as she is a passionate Pantene user. Also, she has “the image of being an honest, credible person.”

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