How Philips Hooked Young Men With a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Campaign

A guy needs to shave. It could go 1,296 ways

Engaging an audience online—especially the fickle millennial male—can be a tall order. To capture his attention and show off the versatility of the Click & Style electric razor, Philips decided to create a choose-your-own adventure online video experience called "Designed to Play," which now has more than a thousand story outcomes.

The idea for the interactive campaign, which won a silver European Effie, started early last year. Lenze Boonstra, global marketing leader for personal care at Philips, said the brand was looking for a way to interest young men in electrical grooming. Realizing that this group spends most of its time online, it decided to launch an interactive Web campaign. "These guys are basically digital. They are living in that environment," he said. 

Philips tapped Ogilvy & Mather for help. After doing research, including a creative workshop session with younger men, the agency found that millennial guys feel bombarded with images of success and overwhelmed by an array of choices. Most of all, they fear making the wrong decision.

"We wanted to liberate this group from cultural tension and bring playfulness into young men's grooming habits. We wanted to show you can easily change your style, your image and your look,"  said Thorsten Ruehlemann, worldwide managing partner, Ogilvy & Mather Advertising Düsseldorf.

Using Rapt Media's video player technology, Philips and Ogilvy & Mather created "Designed to Play" about a guy trying to figure out how to style his facial hair for a night of partying. At certain points during the video, users are prompted to make choices that change the storyline. 

The strategy worked. The average person made between three to four choices within the video, and spent three minutes and 55 seconds going through the options. Mobile users were by far the most enaged, spending a whopping 5 minutes. It improved purchase consideration for the Click & Style by 6 percent. And, in Germany, Philips sold 16 percent more Click & Style razors than projected.

During the first year of the campaign, there were five different initial choices (mustache, chin curtain, Van Dyke, full beard and clean shaven), and each had different choices within that style—all of which had to be filmed. Initially, there were 625 different possibilities for how the experience could go. This month, Ogilvy, Philips and Rapt Media announced they will renew the campaign for a second year and add a sixth storyline (stubble), bringing the total number of possibilities to 1,296.

To advertise the experience, Philips has created videos and bought pre-roll and banner ads on YouTube, a popular site with its demo. Those ads are focused in Europe, especially the U.K., Turkey, Russia, France, Germany and the Benelux countries, although they can be seen around the world. Most importantly, the campaign is available on mobile to reach young men who constantly use their cellphones. 

"Instead of giving Ogilvy a static end product, we gave them the tools to create the experience that they felt best matched their campaign and, after seeing the success of year one, we look forward to seeing even more success in year two," Erika Trautman, CEO and co-founder of Rapt Media said in a statement.