From scientists examining the dynamics behind the phenomenon of
uplift to pouting beauties frolicking in haybeds, the history of the
cleavage boost has taken many turns since Trevor Beattie's infamous
"Hello Boys" strapline.
Bra wars are still raging on the nation's high streets, and the stakes
are becoming higher as improved own-label offerings present more of a
And for agencies, scoring a bra account is seen as a prestigious
creative prize. Which means that Partners BDDH can't have been best
pleased when TBWA/London stealthily slipped in and grabbed its Gossard
account less than five months after it had been appointed to the
business and shortly before its first work broke.
The bra market has consolidated since Sara Lee, the US company that
makes Wonderbra, bought Courtaulds Textiles, the owner of Gossard, in a
£150 million deal in March 2000. Gossard's chief executive, Brian
Duffy, worked on the famous Eva Herzigova Wonderbra relaunch in the
early 90s alongside Beattie and, with such a history behind them, it's
not that surprising that Duffy should move the business to TBWA.
But why did Gossard decide to call it quits with Partners BDDH after
such a short union? Duffy says he switched his allegiances based on his
history with Beattie and TBWA. "I appointed TBWA because of Trevor and
the huge success we've had in the past. It's a tried-and-tested
formula," he says.
So why didn't he appoint TBWA five months ago, when Abbott Mead Vickers
BBDO lost the business? One theory is that Duffy feared that TBWA's
links with the risque French Connection advertising would put stockists
off Gossard. Duffy's explanation is woolly: "We'd just taken over
We were looking at doing something different. As we formulated our ideas
on what we were looking for, it should have been clearer to me earlier
that it was a job for Trevor and the boys."
Beattie and his TBWA team have extensive experience on Sara Lee
Courtaulds brands, which include Playtex, Wonderbra, Gossard, Berlei and
According to Duffy, Playtex holds the largest share of the market,
although it is Gossard - which, with Berlei, owns only 3 per cent of the
market - that has the biggest potential. "Gossard is sexy, feminine,
fashionable and modern," he says. "It's everything you define as sexy.
It will be the dominant UK brand. The tone of voice we exploited in the
Wonderbra, if the truth be known, belongs to Gossard."
If this is the case, and he's going to reclaim that place in the market
for Gossard, where does that leave Wonderbra? "We operate in
complementary positions," Duffy comments. "And as our brands make up 25
per cent of the market, we've still got plenty to play for."
Despite the loss of the business, Partners BDDH will still launch the
Gossard Superboost with its first work breaking on 1 November.
"Superboost is about trying to position Gossard as the brand for girls
who know themselves," Nick Sykes, the head of development at Partners
This, of course, is a strategy that agencies have been using for some
time. AMV held the Gossard account for eight years, during which time it
produced some provocative work for the brand. Last October it was
ordered by the Advertising Standards Authority to pull down two posters
from its G-Spot campaign after 37 complaints were upheld. One read
"Bring him to his knees" and the other "If he's late, you can always
start without him".
Gossard's defence of the campaign was to say it was aimed at "liberated
women with a wicked sense of humour", but then the company is no
stranger to the ASA. A poster for its Glossies range in 1996 featuring a
brunette reclining on a bed of hay with the strapline "Who said a woman
can't get pleasure from something soft" attracted 321 complaints.
The competition also tried to create a splash. Pretty Polly employed
shock tactics of a different sort through TBWA with spoof TV ads
featuring scientists examining the dynamics of bras.
Meanwhile, Triumph shunned the shock strategy. Tara Marus, a board
director at BJK&E who works on the Triumph account, says the tactic for
the Bijou bra was to do the opposite of what Beattie had done with the
"Unlike Wonderbra, the mentality of Triumph is women talking to women,"
While Beattie would doubtless argue that he was employing the same
strategy, Marus also points out that Triumph was the first to celebrate
bigger-breasted women with its Flaunt bra. "We used the reverse of the
Wonderbra phenomenon with Kelly Brook," she says. And then Trina the
cyber model made an appearance.
"You can spend your whole budget on the person who is wearing the
product," Marus says. "So we broke with convention."
Back in the provocative stable, Pretty Polly launched its "Almost Naked"
range through TBWA a year ago in a campaign which used straplines such
as "Go on, treat yourself". But is the play on female masturbation
becoming just as passe as the headline-grabbing work that preceded it?
It's got to the point where there's nothing less shocking than a shock
Duffy, while reluctant to divulge any clues about future strategies,
agrees it's time for the market to move forward: "Wonderbra
revolutionised advertising in the UK. It was a liberalisation for women.
Before, bra advertising was almost offending women by being so discreet
and politically correct."
Still, the war will rage on using product innovation. "The Wonderbra was
designed for women to attract boys, but women tell me it's an
uncomfortable product. The Superboost is designed to be more wearable
every day than the old shelf-wobbler," Sykes says.
And with companies such as Marks & Spencer breaking with convention and
exploring more provocative and colourful ranges such as its much hyped
Salon Rose line from Agent Provocateur, the growth of own-label brands
may threaten to shrink the market.
The past six months have seen other entrants that could pose a threat to
the established players. Elle MacPherson's Intimates range is about to
hit stores nationwide, following on from its success in Australia.
And the pop queen Kylie Minogue has launched the Love Kylie
Still, the greatest challenge facing established bra brands is dealing
with an increasingly shock-resistant audience. It seems the task that
faces TBWA is how to create brand values without using provocative
"There's probably now a different way to reflect bra advertising in
terms of contemporary women," Duffy says. This will clearly be the
charge for TBWA.