CINCINNATI — The Procter & Gamble Co. is linking laundry to fashion in what's billed as the biggest product launch yet for its venerable Tide brand.
Fashion mentor Tim Gunn of reality TV's "Project Runway" is among those involved in marketing the new "Total Care" products that P&G says draw on technology from its beauty products to let clothes keep their shape, color and new look longer through repeated washing.
The $60 million marketing campaign for the Tide detergent and Downy fabric softener products includes a tie-in with Ann Taylor Stores Corp.'s Loft unit and ads in such magazines as Elle, Vogue and Cosmopolitan, said spokesman Kash Shaikh.
It's an example of how P&G is banking on big-brand innovations to overcome a tradedown-minded U.S. consumer economy, and the company is promoting the line as a budget help because clothes can be worn more often and dry-cleaning bills reduced.
"We are trying to drive some value — clothes, in simple terms, look good longer," said Alex Tosolini, a vice president for Fabric Care.
It's sort of an anti-aging line for clothes, using ingredients derived from Pantene hair products and Olay skin care, among others, the Cincinnati-based consumer goods company says.
Helping open the campaign is a Tide Web site featuring Gunn of Bravo's "Project Runway" and "Tim Gunn's Guide to Style" shows. He offers tips in online videos and will be in other ads, as will such fashion advisers as Jorge Ramon, June Ambrose and Charla Krupp, said Shaikh.
Get samples at Ann Taylor Loft stores
In September, promotions including samples will begin in Loft stores across the country.
Julie Smart, who handles most laundry duty for a family of six in Jacksonville, Fla., said she's intrigued after seeing online promotions for Tide Total Care. She uses Unilever's All Free Clear but plans to test the new Tide product's claims of maintaining clothes' appearance while reducing the need for dry cleaning.
"It makes sense," she said. "Then you use less time shopping, less time driving, less aggravation. Overall, you would spend less money."
P&G officials have said offering new versions of major brands will help offset tendencies by consumers to look at lower-priced private label brands and other competitors.
Tide, a brand more than six decades old with annual sales of some $3.3 billion, this month also rolled out a smaller, lipstick-sized version of its Tide to Go carry-along stain remover. In another example, Crest toothpaste is ready to launch in September a "weekly clean" paste that's meant to offer a dentist's office-clean feel.
P&G shares were down $1.31, or nearly 2 percent, to $70.30, in afternoon trading Monday. They've traded from $60.05 to $75.18 in the past year.
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