Cross-Media Case Study: Thanks for Sharing

Web 2.0 campaign finds the secret to success

Clearly, there is an untapped market for secrets. Last summer, Procter & Gamble wanted to create buzz about Secret deodorant and showcase the brand's 50th anniversary. So Leo Burnett Worldwide invited women to share their own secrets, using social networking, TV, online, outdoor, and a high-profile Reuters billboard in Times Square to get the word out.

The campaign asked women, "Are you strong enough to share your secret?" and directed them to a microsite where they could add theirs to a growing roster of anonymous confessions.

The "Share Your Secret" campaign, which launched in the summer of 2006 and ran through the fall, generated more than 25,000 responses on the microsite and more than doubled site traffic for the brand. And the secrets? They were pretty raw - lovelorn, lonely, frustrated, scared, embarrassed, and occasionally proud and happy. These women wanted to share this stuff with someone - preferably anonymously.

"Online was actually the best way to have people really spill their guts," says Becky Swanson, the campaign's executive creative director. "Of course, we edited out some swear words and some completely immoral and illegal things. But for the most part, those are from the women."

The idea spun off the brand's tagline, "Strong enough for a woman" and the long-running, scripted "My Secret" campaign.

"We had already been running, if you will, a 'strong women' campaign," says P&G spokesman Jay Gooch. "We were looking for another way to bring that symbolism to life."

For this new iteration, print ads revealed selected secrets, and television spots showed women admitting secrets in documentary-style videos. Rich banner ads invited women to type in a secret and be transported to the site. It was interactive from start to finish, each element a call to participate.

It Just Made Sense

The idea was, in retrospect, an obvious one. In the era of user-generated content and reality TV, the natural thing for a brand named "Secret" to do was invite confessions.

"Print [for the 'My Secret' campaign] is the highest-scoring print we've ever done with Secret," Swanson says. "The idea of women being strong enough to share was resonating with our target. We thought [this] would be a more compelling link with our brand."

It appears it was.

The microsite,, received submissions before it even officially launched. Traffic during the campaign was significantly higher than what P&G usually sees for its Secret brand site, says Robby Wells, director of client services for IMC2, which designed the microsite.

Word spread mostly through TV and offline efforts, Wells says. Search didn't play a major role, but some users did get to the site by typing very campaign-specific terms into Google or Yahoo.

The campaign launched with a summertime event in Times Square. Leo Burnett set up laptops for women to send secrets to the Reuters billboard and invited them to text via mobile phone. The event was covered by major news outlets in New York.

"We peppered the whole area with women wearing T-shirts with secrets on them," Swanson says. "Secrets like, 'I go commando,' 'I spit in my boss's coffee.'"

On social networking site Facebook, women were invited to share a secret via a photo and have their friends guess what the secret was, says Jonathan Chin, assistant media director of digital connections for MediaVest Worldwide. MediaVest directed the campaign's strategy.

It all worked to drive users to the site, where they could post or read secrets, watch short videos of women making a confession to a friend or relative, and check out the packaging that commemorated the 50th anniversary of the brand.

Average monthly user sessions from July through September doubled to 119,000; page views more than tripled to 767,000; and the average time spent on the site shot up from 3:45 to 5:20. Secret saw a definite uptick in sales, Swanson says.

"Some individual secrets were viewed close to 3,000 times, while the [total] secrets submitted have been viewed over 1.4 million times since the launch," Wells says.

Users weren't just clicking around the site - those who posted secrets were very likely to share them virally with their friends, Wells says.

The videos on the site and their back stories, which weren't viral, have been downloaded 250,000 times, Wells says. Directed by Oscar-winning documentarian Jessica Yu, they were shot in one take; a roving videographer caught the women's often entertaining postmortems. Some of the women came to the campaign through agents and were asked to invite their friends or family to participate, Swanson says.

"All of the commercials were completely unscripted," she says. "And they were the people's real stories. ... Neither friend knew each other's secret."

It made for some compelling footage. One woman tears up while telling her best friend she wants to have a baby; the friend confesses she's four months pregnant. A woman who bribed her little brother to take her friend to the junior prom decades ago finally confesses it amid lots of laughter.

Coincidentally, filmmaker Yu spilled a secret of her own when accepting her Oscar in 1997, Swanson says: She admitted that her dress cost more than her movie.

Keeping the Secrets Secret

Leo Burnett was nervous about relying so heavily on user-generated content, especially content as sensitive as secrets; Swanson says it had a scripted campaign ready to go if the idea imploded. Still, the agency committed to publishing acceptable submissions with only minor editing, and indeed, many have a feeling of realism that comes from spelling mistakes and bad punctuation.

As it turned out, not everything submitted was deemed appropriate. Yu filmed about 17 spots; nine made it to the microsite. Of the 25,000 secrets submitted to the site, users can view only about 10,900 in a searchable list. It was a compromise between user input and managing the brand.

"I think one of the real challenges in this campaign was to stay within the character of Secret and not be too risqué, but also we didn't want to edit people too much," Swanson says.

The microsite allowed women the greatest freedom to share. The rest of the campaign could have used more of that honest, gritty feel, says Shana Lory, account planning director for Renegade Marketing Group.

"The act of sharing a secret in public creates a feeling of catharsis, engenders closeness with the readers, who become keepers of your secrets, and takes the risk of being emotionally vulnerable," Lory says.

"The microsite is much more successful at creating an emotional connection between the consumers and the brand, whereas the print campaign fell flat precisely because it didn't expose any truths, take any risks, or create any points of shared identification and bonding."

Mintel International senior research analyst Marcia Mogelonsky wanted more selectivity. Though some secrets seemed to fit with the spirit of the campaign (such as, "I just applied to a PhD program" and "Twelve years ago I gave up my newborn son for adoption"), the vast majority have to do with broken hearts, thwarted love, and loneliness, odd for a brand that has distinguished itself through the years by marketing to liberated women, she says.

Still, Mogelonsky applauds the brand for reaching out and acknowledging that, in the age of reality TV and blogging, people really want to contribute.

"So many people consider any kind of advertising [to be] speaking at them instead of speaking with them," Mogelonsky says. "The concept is great. It's not Secret's fault that there are so many people out there with issues."

Next story loading loading..