P&G Launches Online Soap Opera
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?