NEW YORK: American men are to be encouraged to cross the 'below-the-neck' moisturiser barrier with a new TV campaign for the Unilever brand Vaseline Men, introduced to the country last year.

While mens' toiletries sales have surged in the past decade - from $3.8 billion (€2.5bn; £2.2bn) in 2004 to a projected $5.6 bn this year - shaving, shower gels and facial scrubs have led the way.

In a bid to counter the impression that all-over moisturisers are effeminate, Vaseline's ad agency ESPN, together with the New York office of Bartle Bogle Hegarty, have drafted in former New York Giants star Michael Strahan, to front the new ads.

While some top-end brands such as Clinique and Jack Black already produce men's body moisturisere, they tend to be sold at speciality stores such as Sephora.

Major lines such as Old Spice, Gillette and Axe have so far failed to delve below the neck region for fear of turning off millions of red-blooded American men.

"The major reason men don't use body lotion is that they think it'll feel sticky or tacky, take a long time to put on and not absorb well," says Srini Sripada, Unilever's marketing director for skin products.

Although shaving products remain the "gateway" for men willing to experiment with toiletries, Vaseline Men offers a quick-absorbing hybrid between rich body lotions requiring careful application and what are known as "five-second slap-ons."

Data sourced from New York Times; additional content by WARC staff