Creative

Compared to predecessors Halle Berry, Lucy Liu and longtime spokesperson Cindy Crawford, the new faces of Revlon are relative unknowns. Kirshenbaum Bond & Partners chose its new models, Lucianna, Nicola, Liya and Rhea, as much for their personalities as their beauty. The goal is to shed the emotional and physical emptiness associated with ads in the category.

“In cosmetics ads, women tend to be in a sterile environment,” says Richard Kirshenbaum, co-chairman and chief creative officer at the New York-based agency. “Even celebrities are homogenized. You’ve airbrushed the life out of them.” That’s not to say the current models aren’t turning heads in Kirshenbaum’s first work for Revlon, which will spend an estimated $100 million on advertising this year, sources said.

In a single 30-second spot that broke last week for Revlon’s new Absolutely Fabulous lipstick line, one model elicits an admiring glance from a couple—not the clichéd ogle from salivating men. To the tune of Blondie’s “One Way or Another,” she and her comrades stride confidently through grocery aisles, corporate hallways and parking garage rows.

Subtle nuances—smudges and imperfections—are included to keep the scenes rooted in reality. For example, the brunette wipes lipstick off her teeth as she peers into a rest-room mirror.

The print effort, due to break in June publications, features the same four models. One model approaches a revolving door next to copy that reads, “We always get to go first.” In another, two giggly pals chat in the rest room. Copy states, “We always have someone to go to the bathroom with.” Another ad showing a well-coiffed professional on the stock- exchange trading floor declares, “On a bad day, there’s always lipstick.”

To create the final product, Kirshenbaum solicited women’s thoughts about cosmetics advertising. Without question, focus groups said it was out of touch with today’s woman—stuck back in the ’80s, says Rosemarie Ryan, president of Kirshenbaum. The agency also asked stylists, artists, fashion designers and photographers for their input on where women are headed. “We found that women love being women,” says Ryan. “They are spirited, and they’re not apologizing for it. [Today’s woman] is not contrived or predictable like the advertising out there.”

That insight spawned Revlon’s new tagline—”It’s fabulous to be a woman”—which will run in all agency ads for the company. The target audience for Absolutely Fabulous is women, 25-49.

For inspiration, the agency looked to self-assured women such as the actresses from Sex and the City and Charlie’s Angels, music group Destiny’s Child and fashion designer Stella McCartney. The ads seek to resonate with women, much like the Charlie fragrance ads connected with young working women in the ’70s, says Ryan.

Though Kirshenbaum doesn’t rule out using supermodels or celebrities in future ads, he says they must exude verve and character. He won’t say if the four new models will resurface in upcoming work.