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The marketing effort ties into Del Laboratories' strategy of narrowing its focus to two core brands, namely N.Y.C. and Sally Hansen, while phasing out fringe businesses, such as Naturistics.

NEW YORK — In a bold move to differentiate its value-priced color cosmetics brand, Del Laboratories is embarking on a comparison advertising campaign, pitting N.Y.C. New York Color against department store lines, such as Chanel.

The marketing effort ties into Del Laboratories’ strategy of narrowing its focus to two core brands, namely N.Y.C. and Sally Hansen, while phasing out fringe businesses, such as Naturistics.

It also is aimed at keeping N.Y.C. out of the discard pile as mass market retailers trim beauty lines to make room for megalaunches, such as Vital Radiance by Revlon and L’Oréal Paris’ HIP.

To clear space for these spring introductions, many chains are cutting down to one value line from two or three, raising the stakes in the race between Wet ‘n’ Wild, N.Y.C. and a handful of other budget beauty brands.

N.Y.C. will break its bold advertising campaign in April beauty books. The first print ad features N.Y.C. Nail Glossies, high-shine nail polish infused with vitamins, along with a similar shade of Chanel nail lacquer in the background. The tag line is, “You’re smart and beautiful. Why pay more?” A bottle of Nail Glossies retails for $1.99; Chanel’s nail lacquer is $18.

“We’re going for shock and awe to get people to stop at the page,” explained Christine Keihm, senior director of marketing for the brand.

Mass marketers always have hoped consumers would see the similarities between prestige and mass items, and opt for value. In the past few years, that advertising tactic has become more blatant. Procter & Gamble, for instance, compared Olay Regenerist to department store skin care brands in its TV spots. Mass packaging often has mimicked that of premium lines, particularly MAC’s in recent cosmetics launches. And years ago, Parfums de Coeur went head-to-head with Giorgio with its slogan, “If you like Giorgio, you’ll love Primo!”

N.Y.C.’s advertisements are vivid comparisons of mass and prestige color cosmetics, and should help N.Y.C. expand its door count at a pivotal time for mass cosmetics.

With category growth stalled at about 3 percent, retailers are looking to go with brands that can build incremental sales volume.

This story first appeared in the March 17, 2006 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“With N.Y.C.’s pricing, women can afford to buy more than one item,” said Harvey Alstodt, president of Del Cosmetics. “It brings back impulse purchases.”

According to ACNielsen year-to-date data for the period ended Jan. 28, N.Y.C. sales are up 19.3 percent. But several major chains have edited N.Y.C. from the mix, and the company is bent on halting any further attrition.

Introduced in 1999, N.Y.C. bowed at a crucial moment in the value segment of color, when two existing dollar lines — Artmatic and Wet ‘n’ Wild — were merged under one ownership. Del Laboratories saw an opening for a new player in the segment, and N.Y.C. rolled onto the market with vibrant packaging and a fresh approach to budget brands.

The line has remained untouched since its launch and was in need of a fresh push, especially as many retailers look to narrow the assortment. New graphite packaging has replaced N.Y.C.’s original silver compact.

The marketing campaign, which is estimated to cost more than $11 million, is expected to help secure space for N.Y.C. in at least 7,000 additional doors by the end of next year. The line is currently sold in 13,000 doors.

While it polishes up its brands, the company has worked to correct shipping issues that strained relations with retailers in the past.

“Our shipping has dramatically improved,” said Alstodt. “We’ve had a consulting team on board for six months; they will remain for a year addressing supply chain and logistics issues so all company shipping issues will be far behind us.”

In addition to Nail Glossies, N.Y.C. will feature other items in subsequent “dare to compare” ads. The N.Y.C. Ultra-Moist Lipstick will be juxtaposed with MAC, and Clinique and Benefit Cosmetics also will come under the steal-or-splurge-style advertising.

The dare-to-compare pitch doesn’t stop at print advertising. In-store displays also will hammer the point home. In May, N.Y.C. will embark on a five-city tour in a Dare to Compare bus, steered by makeup artist Doug Atkinson, best known for his role on the Canadian TV show “Diva on a Dime.” Women will be plucked off the streets to get an N.Y.C. makeover. N.Y.C. staffers manning the van will park near stores and hand out coupons. The integrated marketing effort will include an overhauled Web site, as well as cause-marketing promotion tied to prom season 2007. The company has partnered with Becca’s Closet, a charity that provides underprivileged girls with prom dresses. “That ties into our theme, Beautiful and Smart,” said Keihm.

Del’s plans for both N.Y.C. and Sally Hansen include an international push. For example, N.Y.C. is getting interest in the U.K. and Brazil, where Alstodt said the brand is perceived as high quality and on par with department store brands in America. Sally Hansen is making inroads in Germany and other parts of Europe.

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Craig Fuller may step down from his post as president and chief executive officer of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores. He offered his resignation after NACDS chairman Anthony Civello informed Fuller that the association’s executive committee was considering a change in leadership, said an NACDS spokeswoman. Fuller joined NACDS six years ago, touted as a powerful lobbyist with close ties to Washington heavyweights. In the mid-Eighties, Fuller served in the Reagan administration, as assistant to the president for cabinet affairs.

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