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Cosmetic Companies Compete
for Gay Shelves
Ad dollars grow as quickly as five o'clock shadow.
By Michael Wilke


Kyan Douglas

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A Blackened Eye for Queer Guys

MARCH 31, 2005. L'Oreal Paris will introduce its Men's Expert skin care line in May, probably with "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" star Kyan Douglas as its endorser. The healthy $50-60 million advertising budget will take aim at both metrosexuals and homosexuals age 20 to mid-40s.

Douglas is the company's first spokesperson for all categories: cosmetics, skincare, and hair products for both women and men. He's in a new commercial for Hi-light Styliste, the women's hair color line, and is reportedly being considered for the new Men's Expert campaign, too.

Men's Expert will be the second brand from L'Oreal in the gay market, following Vive for Men shampoo in May 2004. The Men's Expert campaign could become the latest example of using openly gay endorsers for both general and gay market advertising, following Ellen DeGeneres and "Queer Eye" producer David Collins in advertising for American Express. (Final details for the Men's Expert ad creative are not yet complete, but media will appear on TV, men's magazines, sporting events, gay events, gyms and web sites including Gay.com.)

"The gay market is very important to L'Oreal and our success with gay men is a key priority for us," says Rob Robillard, Senior Vice President of Marketing for L'Oreal Paris. "Gay men have been involved in our testing every step of the way on everything from product concepts to package design to advertising. Directionally, our research showed that gay men are more category-involved than straight men."

Time Is Right
Noting that 20 percent of men use a moisturizer, and that 28 percent of non-users are likely to try skin care this year, he adds, "The timing is right. Whether you read industry reports or just watch television shows like 'Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,' it is clear that American men are becoming more and more grooming-involved. It is becoming 'cool' for men to use skincare products."

Also this spring, Gillette is introducing an extension to its Gillette Complete line, Skin Soothing Aftershave Gel. The company also continues to broaden its presence in the market, first arriving in May 2003 with Gillette Series Shaving Gel. In England, the company also markets Gillette Series Cool Spray deodorant in Gay Times. Expanding into the gay market for the first time, Gillette competitor SC Johnson & Son introduced its new Edge Advanced Gel in gay media and general media simultaneously in January. The ad shows a snowy ski mountain that doubles as a mound of shaving cream in someone's hand.

"The new Edge Advanced product launch is big news in this category," says SC Johnson spokesman Steve Peckham. "It warranted broader advertising. The marketing team determined that including OUT and Advocate in the print plan would be a good business decision." The company utilized its in-house Gay and Lesbian Business Council for information about the gay market. While it is the company's first gay advertising, SC Johnson previously supported community events such as "Reaching Out" (an LGBT businesspersons conference) and Out and Equal.

The brands are joining an already cluttered bathroom shelf for the gay man. Many skin care products have previously established themselves, including Aramis Lab Series for Men from The Estee Lauder Companies in 1999, Biersdorf's Nivea for Men (introduced in May 2001), Church & Dwight Co.'s Nair for Men (January 2002), and Johnson & Johnson's Neutrogena Men, which was introduced to gay men and the general market in March 2002. OUT magazine reports a 47.5 percent increase in ad pages for the grooming/skin care category from 2003 to 2005.

Gay Ad Themes Unnecessary?
Unlike L'Oreal, which may use "Queer Eye" guy Kyan in its ads, Gillette and SC Johnson both say that using gay people or dedicated themes in their ads is unnecessary because of universal needs among male consumers.

Peckham at SC Johnson says that the company's consumer research and marketing rationale for the product are "the same for the gay community and the general market." He adds, "It's unnecessary to develop creative specific to one group." Asked how it will measure success in the market, Peckham declines comment, citing "competitive reasons."

Gillette spokeswoman Kara Salzillo echoes Peckham's comments. "We don't market specifically to any one group: ethnic, religious, or otherwise. Our goal is to share our message with our target audience, men, as effectively as possible and through a variety of channels that will reach this audience." When asked how the product will be tracked within the gay market, Salzillo says, "We didn't incorporate any separate parameters for its measurement."

In Europe, L'Oreal and other skin care brands have been advertising in French gay magazine Têtu. L'Oreal's Lancôme Paris has advertised its anti-fatigue eye care lotion, and the Studio line of hair care products, since 2003. And a year ago, Adidas began advertising the Active Skincare line.

Missed a Spot
Amazingly, with all the attention to gay skin, and now shaving cream, razor brands have been missing. Gillette competitor Schick, owned by Eveready Battery Co., has had no presence at all in the gay media, and electric razor brands Norelco and Braun have been equally absent. (However, Braun-owned Oral B tooth brushes appeared in OUT magazine last July.)

Advertisers are showing an increasing interest in gay men's penchant for grooming and their willingness to try new products. But cutting out the more masculine aspect of grooming — shaving — makes no sense. Perhaps it's also time for retailers like Sephora, The Body Shop, Bath & Body Works, and Estee Lauder-owned Aveda to step in, too. Especially when a gay male household provides double the potential trial and sales with the same advertising.

Reporting by Eric Noll.

The Commercial Closet — bringing lesbian, gay, bi and trans sensitivity to corporate advertising.



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