DuPont Eschews Ads for Content in Global Push

Effort features BBC World News show

DuPont has traded in TV spots for editorial content and advertorials in a bid to become a thought leader around global concerns like fuel, protection, and food.

Along the way, the company ceded an unusual amount of control, even for the Internet age. For example, the editorial piece—Horizons, a TV series documenting how businesses, governmental leaders, and organizations are tackling macro problems related to population growth—was produced entirely by BBC World News, though DuPont and OgilvyEntertainment hatched the concept. Also, National Geographic supplied most of the photos featured in advertorial print spreads that launched DuPont’s “Welcome to the global collaboratory” push.

What’s more, the chemical and polymer company hasn't overblown its connection to Horizons. On the series’ website, the brand’s presence is limited to a short phrase in the upper right hand corner and a vertical display ad.

The sotto voce approach—rare for any global marketer—reflects the company’s desire to brand by association rather than flood the marketplace with ads. Indeed, the new push does not include TV spots—a staple of DuPont’s past efforts.

"This is a thought leadership play. It’s really not about branding,” said Erich Parker, director of strategic corporate communications at DuPont, which is based in Wilmington, Del. “DuPont passionately believes in this notion of collaborative or collective problem solving. These issues are so large, they’re not going to be solved by any one person or company or any one region of the world. It’s going to require the big thinking of smart, intelligent, and experienced people from wherever they may come.”

Of course, at the end of the day, DuPont still needs to get its brand out there. With that in mind, OgilvyEntertainment also created a series of two-minute documentary shorts that live online via a YouTube channel. Based on actual examples of DuPont collaborations around the world, each short ends with the new tagline and company logo.

“That’s basically where we got to dial up the DuPont story,” explained Otto Bell, associate creative director of development and production at OgilvyEntertainment in New York.

One short illustrates how a bulletproof vest made of DuPont’s Kevlar helped save the life of a police officer in Sao Paolo, Brazil. Another short, set in Mexico, depicts a grateful peasant family moving into a new home insulated with DuPont materials after living in an open-air shanty.

Using social documentarians and production company Twofour, Ogilvy will produce 13 shorts from a pool of some 150 ideas put forth by DuPont employees, according to Bell. BBC World News is shooting 20 half-hour episodes of Horizons, the first of which ran earlier this month. A handful of print spreads, from Ogilvy & Mather, will appear in National Geographic throughout the year.

Parker declined to disclose the budget for the global effort, but said DuPont’s total marketing spending will be “slightly above average” this year. Media spending in the U.S last year was relatively modest, exceeding $10 million, according to Nielsen. That figure doesn’t include online spending.