Unilever Taps Alaskan Town For Vaseline

Vaseline If one 6,000-person Alaskan burg can spawn a vice presidential nominee, why can't another help build a brand?

Unilever has turned to Kodiak, Alaska, (pop. 6,000) resident Petal Ruch to help spread the word about Vaseline Clinical Therapy Lotion, a prescription-strength moisturizer available over the counter. As part of the promotion, Unilever enlisted Ruch to try the lotion and pass it along to anyone she felt needed it. According to the company, Ruch passed it along to 1,000 Kodiak residents in the first two weeks.

"The concept behind the campaign was to let the product's efficacy speak for itself," said Fernando Machado, global brand director for Vaseline, in a press release. "Our belief was if people who live in extreme weather conditions could find relief for their dry skin, then who better to inspire the rest of the country to prescribe new Vaseline Clinical Therapy lotion to themselves and others?"

To communicate the effort, Unilever set up a Web site, www.prescribethenation.com. Through pop-up graphics, a visitor can see people who have used the lotion and how many people they have passed it along to. Most of those pop-ups also include a video of the person extolling the virtues of the lotion before passing it on. The program is also communicated via television and print commercials.

The company spent 19 days in the town filming nearly 200 hours of documentary-style footage for the advertising campaign. The spots were produced by advertising agency Bartle Bogle Hegarty in New York in partnership with Radical Media.

According to a Unilever representative, the state auditioned towns around Alaska long before the state (and its relatively small towns) were thrust into the spotlight with Republican presidential candidate John McCain's choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to be his running mate. Kodiak was chosen for the word-of-mouth program because of its harsh conditions, scenery and tight-knit community, according to the company.

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