Gillette cuts it close and bares all
Encouraging people to associate your brand with user-generated video mashups of nearly naked women is a risky move that would make most brands very nervous, but Procter & Gamble's Gillette was feeling frisky, and it had a new razor to launch. The brand let consumers draw their own connections between copious amounts of smooth bare skin and the Gillette Fusion Power Phenom.
"Gillette had come to us saying they wanted something
new, cool, engaging," says Stacey Vollman, general manager of Sports Illustrated's Web site, si.com. "The engagement metric was the thing that made us think of this video mashup idea." The
Swimsuit Issue, Vollman says, is some of Sports Illustrated's most engaging content.
The video campaign by MediaVest aimed for YouTube-style interaction and creativity, but with enough control over the outcome that the Sports Illustrated and Gillette brands would be protected. The end result was a microsite housed on SI.com, sponsored by Gillette and stocked with video footage of Swimsuit models like Selita Ebanks, Bar Rafaeli and Jessica Gomes, music created just for the campaign, and custom video-editing tools designed to be intuitive. Users created video mashups of the models and sent them to friends, posted them on blogs and attached them to their Facebook profiles via a branded application.
More than an impressive use of in-browser technology, the program infused girl-watching with a UGC vibe while protecting both brands; users shared thousands of videos and racked up 650,000 page views for the site.
Girls On Film
MediaVest had been working on a YouTube-related project when it came time to create the Gillette campaign. Doug Brodman, digital manager at MediaVest, says seeing the numbers of men in the 18-34 demographic interacting with online video made it clear that's where Gillette should be. And MediaVest knew that Time Inc. had been busy evolving the Swimsuit Issue, already a premier print publication among the demographic (reportedly reaching 70 million readers this year) into a major online event; the partnership would offer up many cross-platform opportunities.
One of the challenges was creating the campaign in time to launch with the Swimsuit Issue, which was already close to publication. "We had only a few weeks to turn it around," Vollman says. "The biggest issue was just the turnaround time and trying to get something to market that would work the way users expected it to work."
Other challenges included clearing up any rights issues with the models and finding audio for the videos. Sports Illustrated handled negotiating with the models, something Vollman says the company has to do every year anyway, and the music was created by an indie band called Earworm, which was hired just for the campaign. That left the task of assuring Procter & Gamble that the UGC experiment would be not just safe for the Gillette brand, but good for it.
"P&G as a whole has tended to shy away from UGC a bit," Brodman says. "This is a scenario where we provided [users] with the opportunity to create their own video, but we controlled the content." In fact, even though the site, which was deep with content, gave users a sense of control and creativity, the only item they could create on their own was the name of a finished mashup, and even that had a subtle check on it. SI screened the names for inappropriate content, and if a name had to be rejected, the user was simply prompted to rename it.
With the limits in place, the campaign yielded impressive numbers of UGC videos and no scandals. The mashup app was featured on the Swimsuit home page. In the six-week flight of the campaign, users created 4,400 mashups. People who created mashups tended to spend about 20 minutes with the content. Visitors to the site could view videos and rate them; in that same period, they cast about 80,000 votes.
A Facebook application that let users post the video to their profile pages performed better than most applications; more than 90 percent of Facebook apps have fewer than 100 users, Brodman says, and the Gillette Swimsuit Issue application signed up a little more than 110 in the first six weeks. "We were excited," Brodman says. "It's a tough nut to crack, I think," to get users to accept an application and put it on a personal page.
Sports Illustrated benefited, too; its online Swimsuit Issue sweepstakes scored the second-highest numbers ever, Vollman says. The winner, chosen at random, received a Mac installed with a suite of video-editing software.
Two Easy Pieces
The campaign also offered cross-platform opportunities in the form of live promotions, PR for the release of the magazine, and of course, print space in the Swimsuit Issue itself.
"We have this PR machine that goes out around Swimsuit time that hits 400 million media impressions," Vollman says. "Every year, it's [about] what's new in Swimsuit this year. [The Gillette mashup application] was at the top of the list in talking about Swimsuit 2008."
The front of every Swimsuit issue features any new digital products across a four- to six-page spread, describing the latest in mobile, video, downloadable calendars and more; the Gillette video mashup received editorial space, and Gillette bought ads. To drive trials of the new razor among a young demographic, Gillette teamed up with Sports Illustrated's on-campus student representative program, handing out issues of Swimsuit and free samples of the Fusion Power Phenom.
As planned, the video mashup feature remained live on the Swimsuit Issue site after the six-week campaign ended, continuing to rack up new videos and views. Brodman says the total number of plays is proprietary information, but that overall, the metrics for success - including page views, the number of people who made mashups, viewed mashups and cast votes - "exceeded expectations."
The partnership will likely continue. There's already talk between Gillette and Sports Illustrated about what's new for this year's Swimsuit Issue, and there's opportunity for more involvement and integration, Brodman says. Now that the team has hit upon a UGC video method that's more than acceptable for all parties involved - from the brand, who wants to engage consumers without too much risk to its reputation, to the user, who wants a fun, creative experience with a cool brand - the only question may be how many more videos of beautiful women in bathing suits the Swimsuit site can house without completely melting down. More bandwidth, please.