P&G’s Olympics Routine Goes Big on Digital

Augmented reality gets surprisingly little action, though

If Procter & Gamble’s beauty product sales don’t score well during the Olympics, it won’t be due to a lackluster digital effort. The CPG giant seems to be making good on its recent vow to cut costs by focusing more on digital marketing and less on broadcast advertising.

In one facet of a multitiered initiative, P&G is sponsoring E!’s dedicated online and iPad video coverage of the London Games. The company bought the re-skin ad on the eonline.com homepage, and viewers who click through are taken to the company’s Facebook page, where they can use a “Make Waves” app that's meant to create a virtual audience “wave,” as seen in sports stadiums in recent decades. Also at eonline.com, P&G product lines Olay, Crest 3D White and Cover Girl appear in pre-roll ads for video coverage of the games.

In addition, there are two 30-second London-based videos that are dedicated to E!’s iPad app. P&G brands Pantene, Clairol, Cover Girl and Crest 3D White are getting extension play in these brief-but-playful reports. The brands are mentioned by E! talent during the spots, and their logos appear at the end.

P&G's Olympics effort doesn't ignore social. Facebook pages for the aforementioned beauty brands are filled with photos and posts about the goings-on in London. Last week, social media managers for Cover Girl, Pantene and Olay changed the brands’ profile and cover photos to Olympics-themed images. The CPG firm's Facebook pages for Latinos and Romania are also in the spirit of the games.

The same is true for P&G’s Twitter pages. Pantene, in particular, is pushing its spokesperson deal with U.S. Olympic swimming hopeful Natalie Coughlin, buying a promoted tweet on Twitter to push a YouTube video featuring the athlete.

Augmented Reality MIA During Games

While P&G has tested augmented reality (AR) advertising in recent years, there's surprisingly little activity on this front during the summer games from the brand and its competitors. The packaged-goods firm's cosmetic products would seem ripe for AR, an emerging marketing space that has supplanted social media and mobile as the “next big thing” in some circles.

AR combines consumers’ location—normally away from home—with computer-generated sound, video, graphics and/or GPS data. The experience centers on overlaying a person’s real setting with digital components as seen on devices such as smartphones or tablets. In a nutshell, the idea provides brands with marketing opportunities that are both mobile and interactive, while catching the imagination of consumers in a provocative fashion.

Street-side virtual makeovers brought to you by P&G's Cover Girl and Olay, anyone?

At any rate, during the 2010 Winter Olympics, Yahoo ran an AR effort called “Fancouver” in downtown Vancouver. And this past New Year’s Eve, Nivea orchestrated an augmented reality stint in Times Square New York City. People could plant kisses and view their smooches via an augmented reality screen, said Marci Weisler, COO of tech firm EachScape, which helped put on the marketing event.

Weisler suggested that brands might be missing an opportunity by not using AR to break through the media clutter during the media-noisy summer games.

“I think you could definitely create some pretty buzzworthy opportunities if you got creative in the development of it,” she said. “Particularly if it’s something interesting that is—given the context of the Olympics or something like the Super Bowl—not just for the people at the event. If viewers at home can use their phones to do something and bring the games to life, that to me could be very interesting.”

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