Love Beauty and Planet uses New York Times ad to call out beauty’s sustainability problem

As beauty companies continue to negotiate the industry’s packaging problem, Unilever’s incubated brands Love Beauty and Planet and Love Home and Planet are taking a new approach for holiday.

On Sunday, Dec. 8, the brands will advertise in the New York Times via a center-spread that is printed with holiday motifs and recycling suggestions, and also doubles as recyclable wrapping paper. The point? To encourage New York Times readers and Love Beauty and Planet and Love Home and Planet customers to rethink their holiday waste, said Piyush Jain, Unilever gm and vp of marketing for U.S. hair care, who led both of the brands’ launches.

“These are brands that were born out of purpose,” said Jain. “When we put the word ‘planet’ in the name of these brands, we took that responsibility very, very seriously.”

The New York Times has seen an uptick of beauty brands advertise in its print editions as of late, from Beautycounter to Glossier. Typically, these ads have been used to push bigger conversations within beauty such as its activism, in the case of Beautycounter, or diversity and inclusivity à la Glossier. And they don’t come cheap. The Times has a weekend audience of 4.6 million, and its media kit said ads of this kind range from $100,000 and $150,000. Given the custom, color cardstock of the ad, it was likely more costly than that. Unilever was unable to provide figures of its marketing investment.

Sonika Malhotra, brand founder and global brand director, said this marketing push was a separate line item from the three branded content posts the companies ran in The New York Times earlier this year. Those were timed to events like World Oceans’ Day and ran on the Times’ website through its branded content studio.

“There’s a throwback to print right now, because at the end of the day, it’s a stamp of concrete legitimacy in a digital world where advertising has become cheaper and more available to anyone,” said Erin Flaherty, vp and content director at Digitas. “People are glued to The New York Times right now due to the political landscape, and the Sunday issue is one of the few physical newspapers that people still subscribe to. By launching an ad campaign there, you suddenly stand out from the masses. Whether you purchased an ad or were mentioned organically, it’s a simple way to elevate your brand.”

Unilever’s latest brands have been ones to watch since launching in December 2017 (Love Beauty and Planet ) and January 2019 (Love Home and Planet), as reached $100 million in sales in December 2019. Additionally, both expanded from only U.S. distribution to 40-plus new markets this year. They are seeing north of 6% engagement on social media, and 30% of their customers are repeat customers across digital and in-store partnerships with Target, Walmart and Amazon.

The beauty industry has a packaging problem: According to market research firm Euromonitor International, global demand for plastics within beauty was 153 billion units in 2018. Beyond that, there is a 25% uptick in non-recyclable materials between Thanksgiving and New Years, which drove the companies’ gift wrap play. That holiday boom also sees an uptick of gifts to beauty influencers and editors, as well as samples for various retailers.

Tiila Abbitt, founder of sustainable makeup brand Aether Beauty, said beauty companies need to go beyond a marketing push to emphasize sustainability. “The EPA reported that a third of landfill waste is from the beauty industry, and makeup packaging makes up the bulk of it. Holiday kits are unfortunately even worse,” she said.

The design featured in Love Beauty and Planet and Love Home and Planet’s ad was created by illustrator Leah Duncan and will not be be featured on the packaging of the brands’ products. Malhotra said the New York Times ad, though expensive, is not merely meant to drive sales.

“What are we doing is good marketing, but it’s a conscious way of connecting with consumers,” she said.

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