Mary Kay is featuring real women in its latest ad campaign, a first for the 53-year-old beauty brand. Previous initiatives have focused mainly on the product.

Developed with agency McBeard, the “I Can” campaign was created in collaboration with Mary Kay’s independent beauty consultants, which builds on the growing trend of corporations using real people (as opposed to actors) in their ads.

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“We seeded the hashtag #myMKlife in the spring of 2015 and asked our independent beauty consultants to post on social media what they loved about their Mary Kay business and what they could do because of their ‘Mary Kay Life’ they might not be able to do otherwise,” says Kim Sater, director consumer marketing, Mary Kay.

“We have been tracking the hashtag and collecting the stories for over a year and developing the campaign from those stories.”

Hundreds of photographs and interviews were transformed into the creative, which features select individuals alongside empowering and inspirational quotes, such as “I can be me,” “I can make a difference, not just an income,” and “I can be a good example for my kids.”

“The major challenges we always face with getting new consultants to start a Mary Kay business is that they have to believe they can do it, and they have time to do it,” says Sater. “We think this campaign can convince them that they can do it, because we have provided the examples of so many women who are doing it.”

The campaign kicked off with a spot buy in USA Today in late August, followed with a month-long campaign on Times Square billboards.

“The Times Square piece was especially effective, because everyone who was in New York during that time took photos and shared it with their networks, who shared it with their networks,” says Sater. “The impact went far beyond the impressions we bought.”

The TV broadcast buy is running on “Project Runway” and other programs within the Lifetime network.

In addition, the commercial will be used in Mary Kay’s digital advertising. “We are currently working on our advertising plans for 2017, but this campaign will continue to be pushed out and amplified with paid media, in addition to all the great organic reach we get through social and sharing,” she says. “We will be photographing additional consultants in November 2016, as well as January 2017.”

Since the campaign’s launch in September 2016, it has garnered 43.8 million impressions and 1.2 million engagements across social channels, as well as 300,000-plus uses of the #MyMKLife hashtag on Instagram and Twitter and 40,00-plus uses of the “I Can” custom photo filter.

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