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Diane Keaton and L'oreal Cosmetics Try a New Wrinkle in Advertising


This summer, 60-year-old actress Diane Keaton will be smiling back at you from an ad campaign, but not one for Geritol, life insurance or other artifacts of life beyond the sixth decade. She'll be the new face of a skin-care campaign for L'Oreal Paris, which selected the film star to portray a new view of beauty a wrinkled one.

Keaton will appear in print and television ads for a new formula of L'Oreal anti-aging creams. She isn't the exception but, increasingly, the rule for beauty companies hoping to interest aging baby boomers in specialized cosmetics and skin-care products that promise to reduce fine lines, fade age spots or prevent lipstick from feathering into creases.

Now there are makeup brushes designed to fit under eyeglasses, eye shadows with package type large enough to be easily read, foundations that reflect light from wrinkles, and a "Face Primer" that does what paint primer does: covers the uneven stuff underneath in preparation for a flawless finish.

The pitchwomen aren't the same young faces, either. This spring, Sharon Stone, 48, began appearing in a campaign for Christian Dior's Capture Totale, a $125 serum and $115 cream that claim to reverse such signs of aging as wrinkles, dark spots and sagging. Catherine Deneuve, 62, was chosen in January as the third "beauty icon" for MAC Cosmetics, joining Liza Minnelli, 60, and Diana Ross, 62. All three inspired cosmetics collections that became hot sellers, right down to "Minnelli" false eyelashes.

By fall, MAC will debut national ads for its Viva Glam lipstick that star "a 60-year-old woman," says John Demsey, president of the company, whose ads have previously starred RuPaul and Pamela Anderson. The golden girl of the '70s, model Christie Brinkley, 52, was brought out of retirement by CoverGirl to be the face of Advanced Radiance Age-Defying cosmetics. And Dayle Haddon, a 57-year-old onetime top model, appears in ads for L'Oreal's Age Perfect creams designed for those 50-plus. Twenty years ago, Haddon was told she was "over the hill" as a model.

"The industry just said I would never work again," Haddon says. "I felt that they were wrong, that I was just at the beginning of my life, but they said that it was over. If they were saying that about me, they were saying that about all women."

In the beauty industry, youth has long been the ideal the only ideal and for decades, dewy teenage faces were used to sell products, even those aimed at older women. Models with lines on their faces, gray in their hair and birth dates in the Truman administration disappeared into retirement. Now they're becoming hot properties as cosmetics companies finally face the facts: Many of their best customers are getting old.

"It's the demography, stupid!" says Matt Thornhill, borrowing on a political campaign motto. Thornhill, president of the marketing consulting and research firm the Boomer Project in Richmond, Va., explains that the once-coveted, 135-million-strong population of 18- to 49-year-olds isn't going to grow much in the next decade. "At the same time," he says, "the 50-plus population is going to grow from 89 million to 111 million an increase of about 25%."

And that demographic is boosting sales of anti-aging products, a category that grew an impressive 31% from 2002 to 2004, according to Mintel International Group, a marketing research firm.

Yet beauty companies must tread lightly if they are to talk openly about age. After all, today's 50 isn't much like the 50 of the last millennium. The women born between 1946 and 1964 tend to deny age, and they often don't own up to it in surveys, either.

"They're no longer young adults," Thornhill says. "But they say they aren't ever going to be seniors. Boomers will just be boomers until they are dead."

Many said middle age started at 48 and old age started at 75. "So 50 is early middle age, and old age starts at 75," he says. Assuming they make it to 75.

Even the most gorgeous are hesitant to own up. MAC was turned down by several celebrities who were approached to be "beauty icons," because it meant admitting their age. But Stone, who took the gig with Dior, is comfortable with her years.

"Nobody over 40 wanted to say, 'Hey, I'm 40,' " Stone says. "I was willing to stand there and let the heat singe my eyebrows, and be willing to have people embarrass me. Hey, I'm good with this. There are tons of interesting women in this time of life."

Still, beauty companies find themselves in a tricky position: They have to call out to older consumers without reminding them of exactly how old they are.

"I'm not sure that a 60-year-old has to have a 60-year-old in the ads," says Demsey. "They just want to look at someone who is not a kid."

So there is a bright, blond Brinkley on the inside cover of Prevention magazine, proclaiming in a CoverGirl ad, "I don't want to be younger, I just want to look it." And Dior promotional copy maintains that women accept the signs of aging "with serenity" and "know exactly how to keep them under control."

Ten years ago, products aimed at older women were low-profile niche items, largely sold by direct mail or infomercials. Print ads were clinical shots of jars, tubes and bottles.

But boomers, the companies realized, have deep pockets and the wrinkles to match.

Revlon earlier this year launched a line of problem-solving color cosmetics, the first of its kind. Vital Radiance never explicitly mentions in ads or in packaging that it's for over-50, or mature, skin, though there is a trim, gray-streaked model, carrying a surfboard. And there's Soft Defining Eyeliner, subtitled "non-skipping," for wrinkled lids. Lash Finding Mascara is formulated to enlarge lashes that don't grow as lavish as they used to. And of course, there's the Smoothing Face Primer, which moisturizes, evens out color, keeps makeup out of creases.

The Vital Radiance foundation brush is flatter, the better to fit under eyeglasses; the package type is larger; and the plastic blister packs are perforated to open more easily. These concessions to age aren't much mentioned, either.

"It is somewhat of a dance, candidly," says Michele Johnson, vice president of marketing for Vital Radiance. Their customers know they're older but want the news delivered softly. Revlon chose the phrase "changing skin" and selected graying models real women, not celebrities, because surveys said customers didn't want them.

 

Revlon's approach follows a path blazed by Dove's 2-year-old "Campaign for Real Beauty," a series of ads showing women of various ages, shapes and sizes. The campaign has been hailed by market researchers and advertising executives as a watershed moment for skin care advertising.

Indeed, it's getting harder to find beauty companies that either banish aging faces or rely on a fantasy of youthful perfection to sell to older women. One of the few, LiftFusion Face Lift, a supposed substitute for Botox, shows a freshly hatched, airbrushed twentysomething looking absolutely line-free.

Bad idea, says Thornhill. Appealing to an aging populace means you also must hire "talent designed to appeal to that target," he says.

Companies are paying dearly for first dibs on the few natural-looking celebrities nearing 50 or 60. Dior reportedly offered Stone a four-year contract in excess of $8 million.

"We want to talk to women in an appropriate way," says Carol Hamilton, president of L'Oreal Paris, which hired Keaton and, for Europe, 68-year-old Jane Fonda. "It might be one thing to be talked to when you are 40 by a 20-year-old, but it's another when you're in your 60s."

Keaton covers all the bases. At 60, she isn't obviously rearranged by plastic surgery, yet she has a lifestyle befitting someone 30 years younger: She acts, directs, produces, restores historic houses and has adopted infants, who are now 4 and 10. Now she's adding "the face of L'Oreal" to the mix. The toughest part of her new gig may be reciting the tangled product names: Age Perfect Pro-Calcium Restorative Hydrating Cream and Age Perfect Skin Supporting & Hydrating Makeup.

Even if the beauty companies are embracing old age, they're still masters at the age-old euphemism game.