When a major marketer like Unilever is readying one of its biggest launches by a global comparison, they’re not going to just toss up a TV spot, a slate of banner buys and post a couple tweets. In the case of the company's new hair care product Clear Scalp & Hair Therapy, the CPG company is taking a unique tack: a choose-your-own adventure.
The campaign debuts in the traditional sense with a 15-second spot that will run during tonight’s premiere of America’s Got Talent on NBC. Then, starting May 21 and running through June 11, Unilever—in partnership with NBCUniversal—will begin rolling out a video a week to NBC.com, MyStyle.com, Oxygen.com, Eonline.com, Bravotv.com and DailyCandy as well as the Facebook pages for DailyCandy, Style and E! (and, of course, Clear). The videos will feature celebrities from the NBCU family including E! News’ Giuliana Rancic, 30 Rock’s Jane Krakowski, What Happens Live’s Andy Cohen and Saturday Night Live alum Tim Meadows. Meadows’ involvement isn’t even the weirdest part.
The video series centers around a couple named Chloe and Logan whose luminous locks get them past Rancic, who plays the rare fashionista-bouncer, and into a nightclub named Clear (branding, natch). But once inside, users have to choose whether to follow Chloe or Logan, and as the story lines progress, they have to pick plot options, such as where to go inside the club or what kind of music the DJ should play, with the end goal being to find the club’s exclusive section called The Source.
While the quest might seem like a total time suck a la Pinterest or Minecraft, each story line only totals five minutes, said Barbara Blangiardi, svp of creative partnerships and innovation at NBCU. But that’s assuming users only check out one story path. Users can share the story lines they take to Facebook, and Unilever and NBCU are hoping that will spur others to try it themselves and compare results. Unilever and NBCU arrived at the idea of running a choose-your-own video series after Mindshare Entertainment gave them a heads-up about Interlude’s interactive video technology, which connects with Facebook so that users can share customized story lines to their Timelines. Unilever is also working with 72andSunny on the campaign.
But minus the down-the-rabbit-hole video strategy, the campaign is pretty standard branded entertainment fare, right? “I think in some ways the answer is yes,” said David Rubin, Unilever’s U.S. hair care marketing director. “But this is branded entertainment on steroids, souped up for a Web 3.0 world.” Rubin isn’t talking just about the online videos. Unilever and NBCU will be tracking which story lines get the most play and then cycle those videos back to TV as on-air ads.
“We really believe that we’re teeing it up and then handing it over to the audience and allowing them to both play the game but also have an impact on outcomes that appear on the air,” said John Shea, evp and CMO of integrated media at NBCUniversal.