Remember the perky commercials that began with the ringing of a doorbell followed by the words "Avon calling"? Now, years later, Avon wants to ring billions of doorbells at the same time with the largest campaign in its 121-year history.
The campaign getting under way carries the upbeat theme "Hello tomorrow." The ads are the first work from a new Avon creative agency, Soho Square in New York, part of the WPP Group, which began developing the campaign in September 2005.
"It was a journey in getting there," said Elizabeth Smith, executive vice president at Avon Products in New York, also the president for Avon North American and global marketing.
"It was not a matter of, 'Gee, I love that brand,"' she added, explaining what the campaign is meant to accomplish, but rather an effort to express that Avon "is the company that understands and empowers women."
The campaign seeks to recruit sales representatives to add to its existing more than five million employees who already work for Avon, as well as to build morale among employees of the company, which recently went through layoffs.
The campaign also has a worldwide scope, in keeping with a recent reorganization of Avon by Andrea Jung, its chief executive, to make more decisions along global lines in areas like marketing.
To reflect the ambitious nature of the campaign, Avon plans to increase ad spending this year to $340 million (Rs1,502 crore), against $250 million in 2006 and $135 million in 2005.
"We feel wonderful about the message and we're backing it up with the dollars," Smith said.
A marketing expert said that the campaign might still fall short.
"The issue remains as to whether Jung can use this effort to enthuse and energize her 5 million sales representatives," said Peter Sealey, a former marketing executive for companies like Coca-Cola.
"Maybe she can rally the troops," said Sealey, an adjunct professor of marketing at the Drucker School of Management at Claremont Graduate University, but he said the real issue is a conflict between relying on a sales force and embracing the opportunity to sell in a more "pervasive and personal" way, through the Internet.
The campaign has an online component, at avon.com, where Avon has been selling products for the last decade, along with television commercials, print advertisements and brochures.
There is also a cause-marketing element. Avon is founding a Hello Tomorrow Fund and pledges to donate money through it to organizations in 18 countries that help women in areas like business development and community service.
The campaign has a broader reach than the sales force and company employees, Smith said. It is also intended to burnish the Avon brand image among consumers as well as help sell Avon products like lipsticks, skin lotions, fragrances and moisturizers.
"Avon is one of those classic brands that everyone knows," said Nicola Bell, client services director at Soho Square, "but they've come to a point in time when they needed to re-energize the brand across all audiences."