Can Unilever and NBCU Deliver the Best Integrated Campaign Ever?

Unilever and NBC Universal timed their announcement of what may turn out to be the biggest integrated marketing program we’ve seen tied to television to launch Unilever’s new hair-care product, Clear Scalp & Hair Therapy.  Unilever has hit some transmedia home runs before as seen with their Dove “campaign for Real Beauty” and this partnership with NBCUniversal’s Integrated Media and Creative Partnerships and Innovation (CP&I) Groups could be the one that set’s a new standard.  The program began yesterday with the airing of a teaser for a series of videos that start on-air and then continue online – where users get to influence the story. In theory, everything is lining up to showcase what a media company with many outlets can do when partnered with a huge company like Unilever. While the campaign revolves around the Best Night Ever, over the next few weeks, we’ll see if they were able to deliver on the promises of one of the Best Campaigns Ever.

There is so much going for this campaign – the involvement of NBCU’s talent across their multiple networks, the fun interactive ability to control the characters’ experiences beyond the velvet rope and a launch coinciding with television’s May Sweeps – it is surprising that there seems to already be some quirky issues arising.  Don’t get me wrong — I’m not being a hater and wanting to point out issues because I want this to fail. I actually want this to succeed because I know how hard it is to pull off and it could point to even bigger opportunities for the future.

Utilizing NBCU talent, including Jane Krakowski, Andy Cohen, Giuliana Rancic, and Tim Meadows, the narrative will focus on how healthy hair is essential to having a great night out. The interesting thing is that it seems the 15 second teaser for the campaign is all that will actually run during the Sweeps period. We’ll see how they use the talent to drive the narrative – it’s not clear whether they’ll be actively part of it or just presenters.  It seems like we will be following one girl and one guy through their “night out” experiences.  All of the pieces will run across NBC, Style, Oxygen, E!, Bravo, NBC.com, MyStyle.com, Oxygen.com, Eonline.com, Bravotv.com, and DailyCandy.  The acquisition of these properties were made with this type of cross-platform promotion in mind. How smooth and integrated the program and its narrative are across all of those teams will be the test.  It will be interesting to see whether they go safe with simple executions or really rev it up with bespoke “accents” depending on the platform or publisher.

Their choice for the campaign to be themed Best Night Ever is a tricky one.  It makes sense for the narrative of their clips, but there’s a LOT of established content out there with that moniker.  Doing a quick search, I found a lot of stuff about the television show, HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER. And, unless they are looking for people to share their own Best Night Ever, the use of that hash-tag on Twitter might lead in completely different directions.  Speaking of Twitter, I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a Twitter account disclaimer that stated the management of a brand-specific account is being done by the outside agency – in this case, Webber Shandwick.

NBCU and Unilever are using a technology from Interlude to enable users to interact and determine how the action should branch in order to make it the best night ever.  This could be in the form of choosing which character to follow, which music to listen to, and other choices that will supposedly affect the content of subsequent on-air and online videos. I would love to know how many people actually interact with the story, its characters and more. The learnings alone from such an integrated program could be huge.  What relative percentage converted from on-air to online? How deep into the experience did people interact?  How many times did they come back? Though I doubt we’ll see those hard numbers, they would be fascinating.

One concern that I have is that the 15 second teaser cannot be seen online on youtube.com, and you need to Like the Clear Hair Facebook page to see what’s there. I can understand wanting people to like you in order to get free samples, but putting a gate up there before people can find out more doesn’t make sense.  Additionally, none of the sites that will be hosting parts of the program have anything about this on their home pages.  Again, I can understand that it’s still early.  This could just be an example of how tough it is to launch a campaign like this. They probably would have been well served to even have just a minimal mention of the program on their sites. And, I would have definitely posted the video on YouTube. As for Facebook, I get wanting to be able to have your videos go out to the world in many people’s timelines, but how many people will allow that just to sample your new product.  If it was an established brand, I can see more people wanting to share the joy.  I’m worried that the gate is too high for people to find out more about the product on Facebook.

Ultimately, This type of campaign is what we used to dream of when I was at ABC.com. There were too many obstacles that have since been removed, but it is still incredibly complex. While we may never see the stats, we’ll get a good sense of whether it was a success if we see more of these types of integrated programs in the future. For the benefit of all the media we do, fingers are crossed that it is a resounding one and leads to many more opportunities in the future. Hopefully, the Best Night Ever will lead to the opportunities for even more Best Integrated Campaigns Ever…

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