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Coppertone Chooses a New Icon for Sunscreen

The Exchange

There's a new Coppertone kid on the block. Five-year-old Alaina Thompson from Winter Haven, Fla., will be the fresh face featured in a print ad for the sunscreen brand in 2013.


The company held a contest on its Facebook page to find the next "Little Miss Coppertone" in an effort to bring a modern look to the product's ad campaign. Coppertone is a line of sunscreen within Merck & Co. Inc (MRK).

The icon, Little Miss Coppertone, was first featured on billboards in 1952,  hanging a bathing suit on a clothesline.

Then in 1953, the image we are all familiar with, of a girl with her dog, was published. She was a composite drawing from the work of at least seven artists.


As Little Miss Coppertone's popularity grew, she appeared in print ads nationwide as a symbol of sun protection. During its 60-year run, many celebrities took on the role of the iconic Coppertone girl.

Among them was Jodie Foster; she made her acting debut by starring in TV commercials as the icon when she was three.


Miss Coppertone isn't the only icon getting a makeover these days. Most recently, the Quaker Oats man got a new look. The changes were subtle, but they made him look thinner and gave him a new hairdo.

In the past couple years, Starbucks (SBUX) and Gap Inc. (GPS) both changed their logos, but not as subtly. Starbucks removed its ring around the mermaid along with the words "Starbucks Coffee." The mermaid siren image also changed to green from black. Initially, public opinion was not enthusiastic about the change, but Starbucks stuck with its decision.

In late 2010, Gap also made a major change to its logo, trying to create a more contemporary version. But there was a loud public outcry against the new image, with people saying it looked like clip art or something a child made. In response to the negative reaction, Gap actually changed back to its old logo.

Alaina's mother, Kimberlee, came across the contest by chance while looking for a Coppertone coupon. She was shocked when her daughter won the first prize of a seven-day, six-night family vacation and a starring role in the print ad.

"We were over the moon [about winning]," Thompson says. "We're absolutely thrilled."

The family, which includes Alaina's father and 7-year-old sister, has not chosen the vacation destination yet. However, they're leaning toward Hawaii, where there is plenty of fishing and swimming -- two of Alaina's favorite activities.