Say the word laundry, and most people groan. But for MediaVest and its client Procter & Gamble, laundry took on a whole new meaning thanks to a radio plan that turned a mundane chore into a party, 10 of them in fact.

During February and March 2005, WUSL-FM, Clear Channel’s Hip Hop station in Philadelphia hosted weekly Gain “See Ya at the Laundromat” parties. Listeners were invited to bring their laundry to local laundromats where they received free, full-size samples of Gain and other promotional items, did their laundry for free and got a chance to win prizes and party with Shamara, one of the market’s favorite radio personalities.

The parties helped Procter & Gamble clean up at the laundromat and win over new Gain customers among young, African American women, the primary target of the campaign. Volume shipments of the P&G brand increased 14 percent during the 10-week Laundry Party period compared to the 10 weeks prior. MediaVest and P&G are considering expanding the concept to other markets and for other P&G brands.

While a party may sound like a simple idea, it was born out of very specific marketing needs and extensive research. Even though Gain had healthy sales and strong customer loyalty among African American women in most regions of the United States, the brand wasn’t performing nearly as well in the Northeast. So in June 2004, P&G brought the problem to MediaVest, which along with Starcom handles the spending for more than 113 P&G brands. Since the research showed that African American women were heavy radio listeners, a healthy radio budget had been set aside with the initial idea of leveraging the target’s loyalty to radio using a campaign that relied on endorsements from station personalities.

But MediaVest knew such endorsements were tough to arrange and came with a high price tag. “[It was] an opportunity to tailor the plan and translate a simple radio buy into something more,” says Maribeth Papuga, senior vp and director of local broadcast for MediaVest, who headed up the Gain team with Kristy Carruba, vp and local account manager, and Gerald Piscopo, senior negotiator. “Rather than spreading it out, we leveraged the money with one station. We were going to give them 100 percent of the money, so we wanted more,” she says.

MediaVest settled on WUSL because of its top rating among young, African American women and its strong ties in the community. “We came out way ahead with the media time and the contribution from the station,” Carruba says.

To come up with a campaign, MediaVest shared P&G’s consumer research with the station. Until last year, Insight Briefings, conducted for all of P&G’s brands, were shared only with the creative side of the business. But by applying that research to the media side, MediaVest began to think differently about how to spend the money to P&G’s best advantage.

The research showed that Gain’s urban, African American, female consumer does her laundry in the laundromat. She considers the task a social event and uses it as an opportunity to find out what’s happening in the community.

“MediaVest gave us an opportunity to be creative under their guidelines,” says Anthony Fuscaldo, national sales manager for CC in Philadelphia. “It seemed to go hand in hand with our audience. Any time we can get out in the community with a purpose, it’s a benefit for us. So it was a win-win for both.”

In addition to an aggressive schedule of on-air promotions on WUSL, CC supplemented the schedule with mentions on WDAS-FM, the company’s older-skewing and No. 1-rated Urban station in the market. Some of the WDAS personalities also attended the parties. The on-air portion of the campaign reached more than 1,200 Urban female listeners 18-54 about six times each week, while attendance at the parties increased 50 percent to 110 percent each week, drawing more than 220 listeners.

“Laundry seems to be a metaphor for daily life. We all have laundry to do, so let’s hang out and do it together,” says Jennifer Welding, national account manager for WUSL, who handled the logistics for the parties “A little thing became important to a lot of people.” Katy Bachman is a senior editor for Mediaweek.