Will P&G Lead The Way In Social Media By Reinventing Soap Operas?

For brands, doing social media right will be about telling stories. It will be about blurring the lines between advertising and content. And while there will be an opportunity for brands to attach themselves to stories people choose to share, it's even better when brands help by getting those stories started. This means taking advantage of an old-school marketing playbook: the soap opera.

Recently Dow Jones published a story titled "P&G Puts Added Focus On Digital Media As TV Soap Ends." What's most interesting is that P&G is not winding down its soap opera operations, but rather refocusing those resources on digital efforts. This got me thinking of all the similarities between successful social media marketing and the soap opera. Rather than inserting your brand into someone else's content, the best practices for social media thus far have been to create stories around your brand, making the integration more seamless. The difference, of course, between traditional soap opera and social media is that social media is "participatory." This means that brands won't need to produce stories, as much as they will need to create settings where people will feel compelled to tell their own stories. Another benefit of brands integrating themselves within the content is so they can easily take advantage of the pass-along nature of social media.



So where will the line of responsibility lie between brands and agencies for producing content and facilitating people telling stories? The answer will depend on who more quickly develops expertise and resources for managing social media efforts in an ongoing manner. Rather than looking at a singular campaign concept and staffing for the plan, with an execute and evaluate marketing model, marketers will evaluate how best to develop and manage conversations around their brands. Years ago P&G realized that it would be easier for the company to produce the content itself and then put it on because it gave them the greatest return. Will the story play out the same in social media?

What do you think? Leave a comment or drop me a line on twitter @joemarchese (

6 comments about "Will P&G Lead The Way In Social Media By Reinventing Soap Operas?".
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  1. Rob Tait from Silent Joe, April 21, 2009 at 1:43 p.m.

    Your observations on the need for brands to add to the traditional interruptive model are bang on. However, unless agencies transform themselves radically, branded story telling (or branded entertainment) initiatives are not going to rest with them. Rather, we'll see a new breed of marketing communications company develop. A 'post agency' company if you will that will be able to speak equally well to both marketing and story telling. One such company, Fresh Baked Entertainment out of Toronto, is a good example of this hybrid approach. As prime time viewing habits move online, FBE creates branded webisodes anchored in the brand that give consumers something to talk about via social media.

  2. Stephen Shearin from ionBurst Media, April 21, 2009 at 2:18 p.m.

    Great topic and I agree with Rob as well. In fact, I'll take it a step further and say that agencies should NOT be responsible and rather stick to their strong suits.
    The format already exists and the audience is trained for it, from music vids to Nintendo DS, from short film fests to webisodes, webcasts and online video in general. There is definitely an opening for some creative houses (like FBE) to become successful soaps of the 'net, generating content that brands use for product placement, pre-roll, or some yet to be discovered ad medium. Now, where's my video camera....

  3. Mike Patterson from WIP, Inc., April 21, 2009 at 3:08 p.m.

    Great idea and great strategic direction for integrating advertising and promotion into social media. There is too much out there that is just slapping itself onto social media in an "old media" disrupt and grab fashion rather than working on integrating with the new media platforms.

    Soap operas themselves caught attention by creating "cliffhanging drama" (as cheesy as it may be!) that kept the viewer riveted...."I can't go switch the laundry because I may miss the reveal of whose child Sampson really I guess I'll watch this Tide commercial"

    Social media should apply a similar tactic by creating short bursts of drama/comedy around the brands/products/services, etc they are trying to promote. Stories that keep the user riveted and coming back for more and more...

  4. Tyler Lecompte from, April 21, 2009 at 3:17 p.m.

    One of the best reads in a long time Rob, and to do it in so few words...impressed. I believe that brands finally embracing the true essence of story-telling; those that are confident in their own image, their products/services, and their reputation; can only find unmeasurable acceptance and success with their efforts.

    Your quote, "brands won't need to produce stories, as much as they will need to create settings where people will feel compelled to tell their own stories. Another benefit of brands integrating themselves within the content is so they can easily take advantage of the pass-along nature of social media. " This is the definition of my current focus and efforts and this article lets me know I am not that far off track.

    @Rob: I disagree that existing agencies need to transform themselves drastically, because their participation is minimally required for authentic word-of-mouth and virility to occur. I believe that agencies should accept more of a consultancy position for any/all clients wishing to become participatory in their social media efforts. Only the brand or the consumer can truly express the relationship that exists. These "discussions" can of course be encouraged, even activated, through inclusion into traditional marketing methods & tactics.

    Thanks again, keep 'em coming!

  5. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, April 21, 2009 at 4:45 p.m.

    Kleenex did a pretty good job with people telling their heartfelt stories all weepy eyed. Very ancient Greek. It did incorporate a natural flow and that's the key. It will work for a few, but when you take it one iota too far, it will be phoney. If someone walks into your house and sees a box of Cheerios on your kitchen table, they wouldn 't think twice unless you bring their attention to it by telling them the marvels of it. That's an ad. When you start telling your guest about every brand they see in your house, you lose a friend to ad naseum. Like anything else, balance.

  6. Kirsten Osolind from RE:INVENTION, August 27, 2009 at 12:49 a.m.

    The media landscape is changing; entertainment properties are launching online, then making their way to television and movies. Soap opera fans are hungry for something new. Since March, CHICAGO TO CORONADO (C2CSoap), the first digital soap opera, has been reinventing the traditional soap opera. CHICAGO TO CORONADO now counts 30,000 fans across a cast of 7 main characters (41% fan growth rate every 21 days) and it has the social media landscape covered. The storyline is written in 140-character tweets sent at random by characters – with a home on Facebook, Vimeo and Bubbletweet, Flickr, a weekly e-newsletter (C2CSoap Digest), and a website ( The characters lead active online lives – maintaining Yelp, Facebook, Amazon, and LinkedIn profiles. C2CSoap has already appeared in USAToday, San Diego Magazine, Chicago Tribune, Crain’s Chicago Business, We Love Soaps, and more.

    C2CSoap ratchets traditional soap opera product placement up a notch. Fans are highly involved, sending direct messages to C2CSoap characters, giving them access to what is in their mind. Audience engagement (30% click thru rates vs.1% industry standards) and social network connectedness infuse sponsor product placement opportunities with increased relevancy, point of purchase impact, and viral marketing. This makes C2CSoap a rich interactive playground for sponsors and partners.

    Most importantly, C2CSoap leverages user-generated content: C2CSoap fan stories of re:invention are featured weekly on the website and in C2CSoap Digest. Fans vote on storyline direction, share their own stories, and post videos/photos. They can even guest star. All they need to do is follow the cast of characters on Twitter and @ or D to join in on the fun.

    It’s good to see marketing leaders like P&G embrace social media - even better to know that savvy reporters like you are discussing the implications for traditional media entertainment properties. There will always be a need for stories that keep us on the edge of our seat. Welcome to the fun!

    Kirsten Osolind
    main storyline:

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