When Axe, a longtime user of new and social media, was mulling over ideas for a new shower gel campaign early last summer, it decided it was time to make the Web a whole lot dirtier. Literally.
So this past summer, the Unilever brand launched "The World's Dirtiest Film" campaign, a mix of user-generated content, blogger engagement, and a Facebook partnership, in hopes of increasing awareness of the product online - where a majority of its consumers reside.
Heather Mitchell, Unilever PR manager, says the short-length film, first presented by David Spade on Jimmy Kimmel Live, featured a blend of professionally produced and user-generated scenes of guys and girls getting dirty with mud, whipped cream, and chocolate.
The idea of using a new media-centric effort to generate buzz was a no-brainer for Axe. In fact, such tactics should be for any company trying to target the coveted 18- to 34-year-old male demographic.
"Our Axe guys are already online and want to be entertained and surprised," Mitchell notes via e-mail. "These guys want to belong, share, and be heard and social networking sites and online communities help make those things possible... so social media was a natural and must-have component."
Working the blogs
Wanting to generate chatter about the campaign within the blogging community, Mitchell says, Axe enlisted the help of four "influential and targeted" bloggers to help judge which consumer video submissions would make it into the final film. The bloggers were Matt Ufford from WithLeather.com, Steve Coulson from YesButNoButYes.com, Jason Chen from Gizmodo.com, and Spencer Hall, known as Orson Swindle, from EverydayShouldBeSaturday.com.
The videos were posted on Collegehumor.com as part of Axe's partnership with the site for the promotion. Axe also launched a group page on Facebook designed to help drive up the number of video submissions by guiding people to www.worldsdirtiestfilm.com.
"To keep Facebook group members engaged," Mitchell says, "we distributed news feeds, developed a custom 'Dish the Dirt' application, created an Axe Shower 'Devil Duck' gift, and posted videos, tour photos, and discussion topics."
Mitchell says the program was a success, as visitors spent an average of nearly four minutes on the site. The Facebook component exceeded its unique visitors goal by 400%, while 252,575 free Axe Shower "Devil Ducks" circulated throughout the network in one day.
New media campaigns are nothing new for Axe, which debuted in the US five years ago. In fact, the brand was using viral video and other new media tactics long before they became buzz words.
"The Axe mantra is to surround, surprise, and evolve with our guys," says Steve Peckham, SVP at Edelman and lead on the Axe account. "As our guy finds different things amusing and engaging, Axe dives into that world."
Peckham cites a viral video Axe created a few years back named "Ravenstoke," which can now be found on YouTube, and a promotion it ran on MySpace two years ago called "Gamekillers" as Axe's early entry into new media. The video generated 2 million views and consumers began creating their own characters on MySpace.
At the core of these efforts is the concept of letting consumers take control of the brand and create content that exemplifies what the brand means to them personally.
"Axe really isn't Unilever's brand anymore; it belongs to the 18- to 24-year-old guy now," Peckham explains. "These guys are making Axe what they want it to be and social media elevates that process. These are examples of guys taking over the brand. That's true engagement, which is what you want."
Video proves valuable
Cadbury Schweppes recently experienced something similar in December with a video it created with YouTube sensation Tay Zonday for the launch of its Cherry Chocolate Diet Dr. Pepper. The video is a spoof on Zonday's "Chocolate Rain" video, which debuted on YouTube this past summer and has since gotten over 13 million views.
Viewers began making their own versions of the Cherry Chocolate Diet Dr. Pepper video and posting them on YouTube. The Dr. Pepper video has gotten 2.4 million views to date.
Greg Artkop, director of PR at Cadbury, says the idea to use Zonday was born out of brainstorm session between the PR and interactive team. "We wanted to do something impactful," Artkop says, "something that would reach the people who wouldn't see our traditional print and TV ads."
Zonday wrote the song and the video was shot and produced in a little more than a week. Dr. Pepper then turned it over to Zonday to post online. It debuted a month before any traditional ads.
"Zonday sent a note to friends and it took off," Artkop says. "The goal was to let the game come to us."
While the target for the drink, which debuted in early January, was probably a little broader than 18- to 34-year-old males, Artkop says he knew the video would resonate with this group.
Artkop and Nick Ragone, SVP and director of the New York media and communications strategy group at Ketchum, Cadbury's AOR, say new-media efforts are a growing part of its marketing philosophy.
"It's part of a systematic approach to using this on an ongoing basis," Ragone notes. "Some other new media and social networking efforts will take place this spring."
Peckham says the use of new media is always on the table for Axe, but only when it makes sense.
"Axe doesn't try to implement every marketing discipline into each program," he says. "But if our guys are online and passing things along, then it's a really ripe area for Axe to get involved in."
Where the guys are*
*Most popular social networking sites and forums among 18- to 34-year-old males according to number of visitors for the four weeks ending 1/12/08