Commentary

P&G: From Soap Operas To Online/Mobile Shows

Procter & Gamble Co. has been in the news lately, as the company recently launched an online program called "Crescent Heights." The show features a recent college graduate named Ashley, who hails from Wisconsin and recently moved to Los Angeles to begin a career in public relations. The story focuses on Ashley's work life, love life and acclimation to being in a new city. Intertwined throughout the program is the connection to Tide, which serves as the sole sponsor/creator of "Crescent Heights."

While advertisers have been creating funny and unique clips or commercials online, this is one of the first times an advertiser has used both the Web and mobile for distribution of original programming. I give P&G credit for trying to leverage online video to create something new and different. The company is credited with inventing the soap opera by sponsoring the "Ma Perkins' radio show and, later, "Guiding Light," so you would expect such an innovator to be one of the first to try to recreate that success in today's digital universe. As television consumption among young adults and children drastically declines, advertisers are trying to engage this audience where they are, which means the Web and eventually mobile. This is a first step by an advertiser to do just that outside of basic video advertising and sponsorships on social networking Web sites.

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While the programming is not geared toward my demographic, I found the quality of the production to be relatively good. A lot of thought went into these segments and it is quite clear that professional production teams were involved. Once you know Tide is the creator, you begin to focus on how every aspect of the show relates to the product. Bright colors are used throughout, especially when it comes to the apparel of each character, but it wasn't excessive. The actual package of Tide was intertwined through at least three of the four segments I watched, but I wouldn't say its use was over-the-top or too advertorial.

P&G deserves all the credit it receives for its marketing, especially when it comes to Tide. Competitor Unilever, which makes All and Wisk, recently announced its plan to sell its North American laundry unit because the company has been unable to compete with P&G in the U.S.

However, while Tide has been so effective with its marketing, and I give them credit for trying something new when it comes to online video, I am not sure if this latest endeavor is going to achieve the desired results. I think the program is geared toward a slightly older audience, and one which may be disappointed upon learning that Tide is the creator. Consumers can be skeptical and I think they will constantly be waiting to be "sold," taught a lesson about detergent or be given laundry tips. I also do not know who tunes in on a regular basis to follow the evolution of these characters.

Expect to see an increase in new ideas and developments from major advertisers, especially within the online video arena. Advertisers like Tanqueray, with its preppie rappers spot, and Cadbury-Schweppes, with the gorilla playing the drums, have had success creating funny and interesting commercials or short clips for online distribution. I think there is an opportunity to leverage video for more of those types of creations, but when it comes to an advertising format such as "Crescent Heights," there are going to be some significant perception challenges to overcome.

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