Inside one of the biggest social TV ad campaigns ever

By Natan Edelsburg 

Last week news broke that Unilever would be launching their new Clear Scalp & Hair Therapy product in a massive launch across NBCU’s linear, digital and social properties. This past year, Unilever has been extremely daring in their TV spends. In January, they enabled Fox to launch “Touch” globally on TV and the social web. Now, their U.S. Hair Care division is leveraging social TV to change the a way a thirty second spot is created and implemented during programming.

The theme of the campaign is called “Best Night Ever,” and it features sponsored content that lets the viewer decide what happens next. The story follows a “hot guy and girl” inside an exclusive club (called “Clear” to tie with the product) as they try to make their way into the VIP section to have their “best night ever.” At varying points in the online video — which has hooks into Facebook and Twitter — you’re prompted to make a decision on what should a character do next, and the storyline evolves with it. Jane Krakowski, Giuliana Rancic, Andy Cohen and Tim Meadows are among the cast members.

This announcement comes less than two weeks after NBCU’s first Digital NewFront, an event created to prove to advertisers that they’re properties on social and digital are as worthy of digital and social dollars as they are linear.

How did this massive integration across NBC, Style, Oxygen, E!, Bravo,,,,,, and DailyCandy come together? Who were the different players that were involved and how did social TV startup Interlude become the technology to power one of the biggest social TV ad campaigns ever? To paint the picture of this social TV fairytale we spoke with the following executives.

David Rubin the U.S. Haircare Marketing Director for Unilever – Rubin, a Yale and Wharton graduate has been with Unilever since 1999 and was on the team that launched AXE to the college market.
Christine Lamson, Mindshare’s Managing Director for the Unilever account – Lamson, who’s been at her current role with Mindshare for less than a year, has experience that includes having led strategic planning for Procter & Gamble’s Olay brands and Physique Haircare lines.
John Shea, the Executive Vice President & Chief Marketing Officer for Integrated Media Entertainment & Digital Networks/Integrated Media for NBCUniversal – Shea, who’s held this newly created position since November 2011, has experience that includes creating the first-ever short form linear/digital mini-series on MTV. He also executive produced the MTV series, “Gamekillers,” in partnership with Unilever.
Yoni Bloch, the Founder and CEO at Interlude – Bloch, arguably one of the most interesting social TV startup founders in the industry is an extremely successful Israeli musician. He was even a guest judge on “Kochav Nolad” season 5, the Israeli American Idol, before he launched his company.

Lost Remote: Why did you decide to launch this is a multiplatform social campaign with Unilever across NBCU? What are the goals?

David Rubin: We are launching a new product that is going to revolutionize the hair care industry. CLEAR SCALP & HAIR THERAPY nourishing shampoos and conditioners offer a unique approach to hair care that starts with scalp nourishment and creates the right foundation for strong, beautiful hair for women and dandruff-free hair for men. In addition to traditional advertising we wanted to go beyond to really engage with our audience in an unconventional way. To do that we’re partnering with NBC Universal to help bring compelling stories, unique properties, top talent and cutting-edge technology to involve and engage consumers across multiple channels while building large-scale awareness for our new brand.

LR: How did Mindshare come across Interlude? Why did you recommend they power this campaign?

Christine Lamson: Mindshare Entertainment had a relationship with the founders of Interlude, an Israeli based company with a very compelling technology. We saw examples that had been executed in other markets and were immediately enthralled with the capability. We introduced our vision to NBC Universal and they worked seamlessly with the Interlude team. Interlude technology drives people online to play with compelling content and choose the path the story takes. We built on this idea to allow consumers to influence the storyline that plays out on television. In essence, we loved the interplay between the 2 screens.

LR: Do you think social is changing TV? How is this campaign innovative?

Lamson: Absolutely and that landscape dynamic is what inspired our CLEAR SCALP & HAIR THERAPY launch activation with NBC Univeresal and Interlude. The campaign is innovative because it leverages a growing consumer dynamic of engaging with multiple screens to enhance the viewing experience. This is a new way of viewing major events- from awards to live sporting events. Our campaign brings that 2-screen dynamic to the branded content experience. We intrigue our consumers with our branded content and the interlude technology compelling them to engage. The branded content provides the excitement & fun for consumers, complementing the functional message of the brand equity message.

LR: How is marketing hair care products across social media different?

Rubin: Hair is a highly involved category. Women and men recognize that hair is a critical part of overall appearance and image. As such, they want the latest products and tips, the best quality, and brands they can trust. The evolution of digital social media has only amplified that historical word-of-mouth, as we see that hair topics are highly searched and talked about online. Consumers want exclusive content they can use to get the look they want, and to share with their friends. That’s why the NBC Universal integration is ideal to help launch our new brand. With the convergence of television and social media channels, we are able to easily integrate CLEAR SCALP & HAIR THERAPY into an experience consumers are already having and become a relevant part of the conversation. In addition, social media channels enable us to really listen to our community of consumers and brand enthusiasts. Because we have access to direct consumer communication, we are attuned to the trends, styles and innovations they want to see, and we can apply those learnings to our business in real time.

LR: How is this campaign innovative?

John Shea: The Integrated Media partnership with Unilever drives engagement in a new way and puts the power of storytelling in the audience’s hands. The campaign, which was developed internally with Barbara Blangiardi and her Creative Partnerships & Innovation team, creates a cycle where the on-air vignettes drive to the online video, and the user’s choices within the digital story impact the next installment of the on-air spot. It’s a highly compelling way to integrate a brand’s message.

LR: How do you think this campaign is redefining what a 15 or 30 second spot/vignette on TV is?

Shea: It’s redefining what a spot can be by offering the viewer a two screen experience tied to linear content that, in turn, offers choice or “gameplay,” and a strong commercial message for the brand.

LR: What are the social media components to the campaign?

Shea: This campaign’s sharing functionality is deeply integrated into the experience across Facebook and Twitter. In addition to the presence of the hashtag #bestnightever in all the creative, the Interlude player is connected directly to Facebook, presenting users with the opportunity to share the experience by dropping it directly onto their Facebook Timeline, thereby helping to organically spread the message.

LR: How does Interlude’s technology work? How is Facebook, Facebook Timelines incorporated?

Yoni Bloch: Interlude’s proprietary platform offers users the opportunity to make choices that affect the course of the video in real time. Interlude videos are structured like decision trees. Before reaching a decision point, the Interlude player presents a few options (at least two, and as many as six) to the viewer allowing the viewer to effectively determine what happens next. Once a choice is made, the player loads the relevant video segment as selected by the viewer.

The Interlude player can be embedded directly into a Facebook wall or tab. Also, we have integrated a Facebook Connect feature so that, when authorized by a viewer, the player can seamlessly incorporate data from the viewer’s profile (e.g., photos, name, etc.) into the video to further personalize the viewing experience. You can see this in both the Nokia and Intel projects we released in the last two months.

LR: What role is Interlude playing in the new Unilever hair campaign across NBCU? How did Mindshare give NBCU a heads up about Interlude?

Bloch: NBCU wrote a script for an interactive video specifically designed to leverage the capabilities of our platform. We have worked closely with the NBCU creative and technical teams to provide guidance on the structure of the underlying story, and of course to create the final interactive video which will be distributed across a number of sites as of Monday, May 21.

Mindshare has been excited about our technology for a while and have explored incorporating our capabilities in the digital campaigns of a number of their more forward looking clients. The opportunity with Unilever and NBCU was obvious to all parties; and we think audiences will be excited about the result as well.

LR: How does Interlude make TV more social?

Bloch: Interlude’s technology is not per se “social,” but it does enable true interactivity and deeper user engagement with any video content. Some of our partners have even allowed audiences to determine the “official” linear version of a video based on the choices made by the majority of users who engaged with the interactive version. Thus, for example, the official music video by Andy Grammer, as released on MTV and other platforms, is a reflection of the most popular choices made by hundreds of thousands of online users.