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Pampers' New Reality: 'A Parent Is Born'

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Procter & Gamble's Pampers brand uses digital media to chronicle the birth of parents via a Web series called A Parent Is Born.

The show launches today and focuses on Suzie and Steve Barston, Los Angeles residents anticipating their first child. The 12 Webisodes focus on various aspects of the parenting journey, from "Finding Out the Sex" to "My Big, Fat, Beautiful Body."

At one point, Steve spends a day wearing a "pregnancy simulator" so he can better appreciate what his wife is going through. Another segment follows Steve and Suzie as they sign up for a "labor class." The series also includes candid moments where Suzie admits to hormonal changes ("I do find myself snapping at him more.") and Steve laughingly notes: "It's nuts!"
 
"We had a number of different, expecting parents come in, interview and talk to us, and from there, we just got lucky," said Pampers' North American marketing director Patrick Kraus.

Suzie and Steve were chosen "just based on their personality" and how they behaved on camera, he said.

Pampers, P&G's largest global brand, rarely does digital advertising on a large scale, much less take a reality approach, but the move is part of the diaper giant's goal to connect with millennial moms while moving ad dollars from TV to online media, said Kraus.
 
"We've been around for 40 years, but we tend to be a little reluctant to do projects like this, because we like to hit the control button and make sure our specific message gets across in the way we want it to," he said.
 
The Webisodes will run on Pampers.com, YouTube and DirecTV On Demand, and TLC will also promote the show. MommyCast, a weekly radio/podcast series, will interview the Barstons on what life is like after son Leo was born.

Though P&G is known for its extensive consumer research, little testing was done for this project, Kraus said, in order to keep the on-screen happenings as real as possible. "[This] isn't a branded video, as we don't have any product placement in there," Kraus said.

Indeed. Aside from the opening Pampers logo, the Webisodes hardly show or mention "disposable diapers," save for an instance where Steve overcomes his "gag reaction" when changing son Leo for the first time.

Kraus said the approach is more genuine, as "it's a real-life look [and] that's what we're trying to get at."

Though videos about people having babies exist all over the Web (a YouTube search for "pregnancy" alone turned up 38,100 results), the Pampers series is different in that it "puts it all together in one very interesting [way]," Kraus said. Rival Huggies, made by Kimberly-Clark, for example, has aired spots showing what it's like to potty train children, but the diaper brand has never done anything like this, a company rep confirmed.

With Gen-Y moms increasingly spending more time on the Web, however, Pampers realized it needed to be where its consumers are, Kraus said, though Pampers will continue to lean heavily on TV, print and direct mail. (In a testament to digital's strength, Huggies opted for Web and print advertising when launching its Pure & Natural line earlier this year.)

And, though the majority of consumers are cutting back on name-brand purchases during the recession, diaper sales continue to hold up relatively well, with 95-98 percent of households buying the disposable variety and most doing so online, Kraus said. (Pampers' product category, baby care and family care net sales, grew 1 percent to $14.1 billion in P&G's latest quarterly earnings report.)

"Parents and moms in particular are information hungry. There are books, training classes, but there is no one place to go to find it. The Internet is the one place that can do it all," Kraus said.

Procter & Gamble Productions crafted the Webisodes in conjunction with the ZiZo Group, Los Angeles, which handled casting, filming and post-production duties.

Pampers spent $50 million last year in measured media, including $800,000 on Interactive ads, per TNS Media Intelligence. The brand spent $9 million on ads in Q1 2009, including $250,000 online.