Soap Opera Demise Expands P&G, NBC Efforts

Petside

The Procter & Gamble and NBC joint venture Petside.com is getting a redesign that includes new features like Pet Places, an online and mobile database of pet businesses in cities around the country.

The new site will have six new channels that include new community functions and new sections around pet nutrition, budgeting and living green, and blogs from pet experts. The site is also introducing a mobile app for iPhones and Android-enabled devices.

Procter & Gamble and NBC Digital Networks have collaborated since 2007 on several Web properties designed to reach underserved communities while giving both P&G brands as well as non-P&G (and non-competitive) brands a "white space" to market products. The first of the NBC Digital and P&G Productions sites were Petside.com, and DinnerTool.com followed by a set of boomer-centric lifestyle-focused Web sites called "Life Goes Strong" on NBC Digital Networks that went live last year and now comprises seven lifestyle channels.

P&G brands advertise on the sites, but the company does not have an exclusive relationship with NBC Properties. NBC does the editorial content and runs day-to-day operations of the sites.

Rich DelCore, P&G's director of global brand entertainment and VP of its Productions unit, says one impetus that set the company looking for new media platforms was the demise of soap operas that P&G has historically been involved with -- "Guiding Light" and "As The World Turns."

"We saw that there were white spaces online where consumers weren't being served and after that we launched PetSide.com with NBC Digital. And we started looking at other places where we felt there wasn't a lot of great content or communities."

DelCore says both NBC and P&G promote the sites: NBC with its sales force and P&G through its communications planning agencies, such as Carat and Starcom MediaVest, under the aegis of each relevant P&G brand. "Once a year we brief our planning agencies under the brands on what we can do and what they might want to do with these sites. But we don't mandate participating at all. We really try to keep this agnostic. We are pitching to our own brands just as NBC might be pitching the sites to other advertisers."

DelCore says the network of sites get 1 to 1.5 million uniques and 4 to 5 million page views per month. "We are on the glide path to where we want to be," he says. "The company is constantly looking for ways to touch consumers who are undeserved or not being served at all: Hispanics, Boomers, moms, both with information and entertainment."

Devin Johnson, general manager of Digital Works at NBC Universal, says the company is promoting the sites through a three-pronged approach: cross-promotional efforts across NBC properties and assets, search engine marketing, and communications through P&G's own assets such as Eukanuba's Puppy Kits.

Brand integration on the sites is mostly focused on driving interest in P&G's ancillary brands -- those that aren't directly related to pets. "So the original plan was focused on (P&G's) Iams and Eukanuba, but we found lots of other brands had potential within that context, like Swiffer, Bounty, and Bounce." He says P&G gets first right of refusal in terms of going outside of its own brands. "Then we can extend to other pet brands."

The broader idea, he says, is to turn the traditional media model on its head by creating a private-label, sustainable digital business for a brand. "So we are basically enabling P&G to be in the media business. Where they have a very distinct target they want to reach, we assist them in creating those platforms. Instead of us going to a company and saying we have created a platform, and 'would you like to advertise on it,' we are saying let's create content together -- a platform that walks a fine line between the consumer's interests and brand need; that's our secret sauce: a property for the brand and also a distinct value for consumers."

Johnson says NBCU is talking with other major companies, and that "The idea of sustainable digital businesses is resonating with others. This is the future: allowing brands and media companies to partner to build assets."

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