THE FACE RACE
MODELS MAY BE BEAUTIFUL AND ASPIRATIONAL, BUT CELEBRITIES CAN CUT THROUGH THE CLUTTER.
Byline: Laura Klepacki
NEW YORK — There’s something about a familiar face.
At least that’s the thinking among beauty marketers these days.
Not satisfied with simply linking their products to beautiful women, brand after brand has been signing celebrity faces to pump up awareness. From musicians Shania Twain at Revlon and Faith Hill at Cover Girl to actresses Angie Harmon for Neutrogena and Virginie Ledoyen for L’Oreal, firms have been tapping women known for more than just good looks.
Young musicians seem to have particular appeal — especially the current crop of blond singers tearing up the charts and dominating MTV. Clairol has just launched ads featuring Britney Spears, Neutrogena uses Mandy Moore and New Dana Perfumes Corp. recently announced a partnership between Christina Aguilera and its Fetish Cosmetics brand.
Beauty brands have always had an aspirational bent, and forming alliances with celebrities is not a new phenomenon. But the pace certainly is heating up.
“The use of celebrities as spokespersons has become an even bigger trend recently. Celebrities are the American royalty,” said Carol Hamilton, senior vice president and general manager for L’Oreal retail. “Even fashion and beauty magazines are responding by featuring actresses on their covers.”
Hamilton said she finds using celebrities “a natural fit” for L’Oreal. “They exemplify the L’Oreal woman with their beauty, intelligence and confidence.”
With an increasing demand for not only beautiful but famous faces, it would seem that brands would be competing for this year’s Oscar and Grammy winners. But marketers insist it just isn’t so.
Rather, said Cheryl Vitali, executive vice president of Revlon Global Brand Equity Group, “There are so many more celebrities, based on the media and the magazines now dedicated to celebrity, that the breadth of celebrities has actually increased. So, it gives you more people to consider.”
But whether it is a famous model or an acclaimed actress, “having the right spokesperson is incredibly important,” noted Vitali. “And that hasn’t changed at all.”
It is necessary to make the right fit between celebrity and product. “I think one of the things we always make sure of is the way that we portray or utilize the celebrity within the category and within the essence of Revlon,” said Vitali. “Otherwise, it would be inappropriate or confusing.”
But having a famous spokewoman, added Vitali, “is a way to cut through the clutter. It gives a personality and a face on a brand and a way to relate to the brand.”
Brian Dubin, senior vice president of the celebrity endorsement division at the William Morris Agency, helped bring singer Mandy Moore and Neutrogena together. Because another client, actress Jennifer Love Hewitt, is also a Neutrogena spokeswoman, Dubin was familiar with the direction the brand was taking. “Mandy has been a client for several years, and when she was first introduced to me, she was right up there in terms of talent and potential. She is a gorgeous young lady with a big personality. I immediately thought that Neutrogena would be a perfect fit.”
Dubin expects to see more such matches in the future. Another client, actress Shannon Elizabeth, star of “Scary Movie” and “American Pie,” just signed a deal with Nautica and Dubin said he wouldn’t be surprised to see a cosmetics contract come across his desk for her.
As for true “bidding wars, it is not to that degree,” said Dubin. “But it will be if there is a star of popular culture that is nearing the pinnacle. It is not unlikely that more than one cosmetics company would be interested.”
Maybe the competition isn’t fierce yet for famous faces, but they do come with a higher price tag.
“We are spending more on models than we did two years ago,” said Anne Martin, global marketing manager for Procter & Gamble Cosmetics. Although she added that the contracts overlap so it isn’t easy to directly make comparisons year-to-year.
Martin said Cover Girl models have come to be seen as “role models.” But, she added, “They are also types of people that women would like to have as friends.”
“Whether Cover Girl’s spokeswomen are top models or celebrities and actresses, they are beautiful and aspirational and always relatable women,” said Martin. “Our family of spokespeople is also multifaceted.”
But importantly, said Martin, “Spokesmodels are a reflection of the time we live in.”
Martin added that over the past few years, more magazines have been featuring celebrities on their covers, not just top models. “Some are seen as more aspirational, or more real, and they become great role models also.” Marketers say that is because more is known about the lives of these women.
Cover Girl recently signed two new young women to represent the brand: Angela Lindvall and Jessica White. Both are models, not singers or actresses. “We will not let go or fully go the way of the industry trend. We will basically try to achieve the right balance in our total model family with a diverse mix,” said Martin.
However, she noted, “Two years from now, if top models are the only thing that the industry is looking at and putting on the cover, then expect us to flex that way.”