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Content Unites Sprint, Unilever

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NEW YORK WPP Group's MindShare is pairing its biggest clients, Sprint and Unilever, in a multiplatform branded-content project designed to give women a forum to discuss various issues relating to motherhood while simultaneously promoting client products.

The agency said this marks the first time it has brought together two companies in a single branded-entertainment venture, although its creator, David Lang, managing director of MindShare Entertainment, said he has other projects in development that also involve more than one client.

In the case of Sprint and Unilever, the collaboration was possible because the brands don't compete, but share the same challenge of engaging an active and often harried consumer base of young mothers.

"While their products and services are on opposite ends of the spectrum, both brands share a keen understanding of mom's life and offer solutions to help her stay connected and look her best," Lang said.

The project is a Web-based series called "In the Motherhood," starring The King of Queens actress Leah Remini. The new show will be directed by Peter Lauer, whose credits include Malcolm in the Middle and Arrested Development. It debuts today on MSN and runs through June. Initial plans call for the production of five five-minute episodes, with the possibility of "second season" to follow, said Lang.

There's also a user-generated component. A Web site invites real-life moms to submit their own stories, which garner votes, with the winners' tales used as the basis for future episodes of the series. The inthemotherhood.com site is hosted by MSN and offers blogging, chat forums, games and other activities.

The site is one part of an integrated marketing program jointly sponsored by the two clients, who are 50-50 partners on the project, said Lang. The Webisodes also can be viewed on suave.com and the Sprint TV mobile platform. The series also will be promoted on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, which will feature clips from the Webisodes over a 10-week period starting this week. As part of a broader agreement, DeGeneres will prompt viewers to submit their stories and will feature Remini on her program to talk about the project.

"With 'In the Motherhood' we want to give moms a real community where they can not only share in the trials and tribulations and joys of being mothers but also just make them smile and hopefully laugh at the everyday truths of their lives," said Sarah Jensen, director, Unilever Hair Care, in a statement. "Plus, we're capturing her attention where she is—online at MSN, while watching one of her favorite TV shows, and even on the go via her Sprint phone."

"Sprint has the powerful products and services to manage and enhance the continuously mobile lives of mothers," said Anita Newton, vp, marketing at Sprint. "'In the Motherhood' is a great campaign because it complements what Sprint and Suave can offer women in a forum that celebrates their mutual experiences in a fun and interactive way."