P&G Launches Online Soap Opera

Discussion
Oct 29, 2007

By Tom Ryan

Procter & Gamble, which introduced soap operas to radio and then television in creating the “Guiding Light” series, is trying the same strategy online with a new show viewers can watch on their PCs and cell phones. The initiative follows moves by other brands to reach younger customers through avenues outside blatant advertising.

Photo courtesy of Procter & Gamble

In “Crescent Heights,” which is more of a sitcom than soap, a recent college graduate, Ashley, moves to Los Angeles from Wisconsin to start a career in public relations and discovers a new circle of friends and romances. Created by a team of Hollywood veterans, the three-minute episodes “are as polished as any television sitcom,” according to the New York Times.

While the Tide logo occasionally appears, clothes are the main focus. In one episode, Ashley is horrified at a party that her bright yellow dress is the only color in a sea of black, but the dress helps get her noticed by a love interest.

“We want to speak to people about more than just laundry,” Kevin Crociata, Tide’s associate marketing director, told the Times. “We provide benefits to the fabrics she wears on a daily basis. They have much more meaning.”

“The product message is there, but it’s not as direct,” adds Mr. Crociata. “If the content wasn’t entertaining, we wouldn’t be successful.”

Among other brands going this route, BudTV.com, which features dozens of original programs, has disappointed since its February launch, but Anheuser-Busch recently said it would continue the initiative.

Unilever has fared better creating original online programs for its Degree deodorant, Dove soap and Caress skin products, among others. The most successful for the I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter! brand (at TasteYouLove.com) has been viewed online more than one million times.

In surveys, Javier Martin, Unilever’s brand manager for I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter!, said viewers were “significantly” more likely to purchase the product than they were before watching the shows.

On the retail side, American Eagle Outfitters in August released “It’s a Mall World,” a series of webisodes revolving around five twentysomethings who work in a mall, one as an American Eagle greeter. The series has significantly benefited from a deal with MTV, which agreed to run episodes during the first three-minute commercial spot of its “Real World: Sydney” series on Wednesday nights. More than 75 percent of the new visitors who come to the site to watch the show also purchase items.

“While our customers really appreciated MTV programming, they were, through TiVo and other devices, disintermediating a lot of the spots we ran on the network,” said Kathy Savitt, American Eagle’s executive vice president for marketing. “With this, we suddenly feel like we’re truly creating a strategy that’s responsive to the way our customers actually consume media.”

Discussion Question: What do you think of brands developing original series to distribute online and over mobile phones? Do you think younger consumers will respond to these efforts? Will these subtle marketing approaches drive sell-throughs at retail?

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9 Comments on "P&G Launches Online Soap Opera"


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Dan Desmarais
Guest
Dan Desmarais
14 years 6 months ago

I suspect P&G will succeed with this third medium of soap operas.

This works well with P&G’s overall marketing grandeur. It meets three great marketing criteria:
1. Fulfill a Need
2. Keep it Simple
3. Go against a Trend

On-demand Soaps are perfect for P&G’s target market–young females just starting to form life-long brand alliances. Twenty-ish females have already formed allegiances to P&G’s haircare and cosmetics, now they’ve moved out on their own and are ready to commit to Tide and Downy.

As for “Keep it Simple,” this medium is exactly what today’s youth want and expect.

Bill Bittner
Guest
Bill Bittner
14 years 6 months ago

The question here is when do our cable bills come down? We’ve been reading for years about the coming “convergence” of the PC and the Television. As this comes closer to a reality, does it mean that a full service cable customer (TV, Internet, Phone) will see their bill drop by one third?

David Biernbaum
Guest
14 years 6 months ago

The online soap opera in concept is an idea that will work. Of course, the success will be equal to the quality of writing, editing, and appeal. Similar phenomena has already occurred on YouTube, for example the hundreds of thousands of online viewers that were gripped by the staged “Lonely Girl” testimonies, even after the YouTube community learned that these episodes were being acted out by professionals. The online soap opera is a concept that will be successful and it will drive sales from its advertising in a big way. Bet on this to happen, given that it’s done well.

Kai Clarke
Guest
14 years 6 months ago

This is a unique concept, but viewers will not be going online vs. their TVs for quite some time. Assuming there will be viewership to watch an online soap is pushing this concept too far. The public wants ease of access, multiple concepts in full motion HD video. Online has years to go before viewers can experience the same concepts that they enjoy today with all current cable programs. Why would they choose to go online when the experience that they currently have with HD cable is clearly superior? The novelty of a different experience online clearly is not greater than the superior HD experience of cable.

Mel Kleiman
Guest
14 years 6 months ago

Great idea for a couple of minutes!

1. It is something consumers choose to watch rather then being tied into something else.
2. Short, give it to me when I want it and make it quick, I don’t have the time to spend.
3. People know who is paying for it and what it is trying to do.
4. It is going to appeal to a lot broader audience because of all of the items listed above.

It isn’t only the younger generation working, watching and interacting differently, so are all of the other generational groups.

Mark Lilien
Guest
14 years 6 months ago

The internet and TV broadcasting are converging. The only differences to the advertiser: cost per impressions and number of impressions. If Procter & Gamble can get their audience via the internet, at a price competitive to television, they will. YouTube easily proved that a mass audience is happy to seek its entertainment online. As time goes by, technology will enable more of the audience to view long-form entertainment, not just 3 minute bite-size pieces. And the audience will use room-size high-definition screens, not just laptop screens.

Charlie Moro
Guest
Charlie Moro
14 years 6 months ago

I think that as you look at YouTube and other media outlets that have in some cases exceeded the viewership of “conventional” broadcasts, there becomes a tremendous opportunity for brand positioning and sending messages. I admit to being a viewer of both Desperate Housewives and Brothers and Sisters, and while I am not ready to go out and follow trends on a weekly basis, I could not help noticing in both shows, how often and somewhat blatant I saw my favorite tech device (Blackberry) being uused by characters on both shows and making the connection that they are making the move from a business item to a more consumer friendly, wider market phone solution. Good thing I already have my new Curve….

Ben Ball
Guest
14 years 6 months ago

I have never understood “serial viewing” at a personal level. The last show I can remember “never missing” was Bonanza. But clearly there are people who are attracted to this form of entertainment–some to the point of near addiction. And it does not appear to be generational or age-related in the least. I recall a doctor’s son who almost flunked out of college his freshman year because he wouldn’t leave the tube room in the dorm during General Hospital to go to his Chemistry lab. This will work for P&G at some level, the only questions are how well and will it move product?

Laura Davis-Taylor
Guest
Laura Davis-Taylor
14 years 6 months ago

I’m not privy to the research that drove this idea but I have to weigh in as a twinge skeptical. It will all be about the execution and if it’s truly appealing or just trying to be cool. We all have so many media choices and so little time and I just wonder how successful this will be versus another more potent marketing tactic.

If I were in charge of this budget, I’d sure as heck tie a measurable call to action to it and hold it tightly accountable. This is because I have the same question around it as I did with Burger King’s “Subservient Chicken” effort. From a media perspective, it was a gangbuster success. But did it generate sales?

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