Staged germ war­fare

Novel the­atri­cal ap­proach to brand mar­ket­ing pays hand­some div­i­dends

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - MEDIA& MARKETING - BREN­DAN SEERY

WE’RE used to some wacky ideas at arts and mu­sic fes­ti­vals – but a show star­ring germs? And a show which, as well as en­ter­tain­ing an au­di­ence, is also strong mar­ket­ing?

That’s the trick that con­sumer prod­uct gi­ant Unilever SA and its ad­ver­tis­ing and pro­mo­tional agen­cies man­aged to pull off in two re­cent gigs at the In­ni­bos Fes­ti­val in Nel­spruit and at the Gate­way The­atre of Shop­ping in Dur­ban.

Audiences were ex­posed to the Domestos 24hr Bleach brand as singers, trapeze artists and dancers took to the stage in The Fly­ing Germ Show, a ma­jor the­atri­cal pro­duc­tion ex­tolling the ben­e­fits of us­ing the house­hold clean­ing prod­uct.

Su­san Stringer, Unilever’s mar­ket­ing di­rec­tor for house­hold care, says the con­cept came out of the brand com­mu­ni­ca­tion idea of a “Show­down in the Germ World”, which has been ap­plied to Domestos com­mu­ni­ca­tion in re­cent times.

“The con­cept for the TV ad­verts was mod­elled on movies like Austin Pow­ers, James Bond and larg­erthan-life su­per­hero an­i­mated films in which the vil­lains are beaten at their own game.”

There’s a vil­lain who’s con­vinced he’s got the mea­sure of the hero – this time – with some new das­tardly plan, there’s a beau­ti­ful woman, there’s a se­cret weapon, there’s a show­down … but in the end, good tri­umphs over evil, says Stringer.

“Peo­ple don’t like to hear about germs and the aw­ful things that lurk in our toi­let bowls – but they need to be told from a hy­giene point of view. By align­ing with movie stereotypes, we have been able to con­vey the mes­sage in a more en­gag­ing, and less daunt­ing way.”

She adds: “We needed to ex­plain to con­sumers that germs mul­ti­ply at an alarm­ing rate in the toi­let, and can fly more than 1.5m when it is flushed if they are not elim­i­nated ev­ery 24 hours. So, to the su­per­hero con­cept we added the idea of fly­ing, à la Cirque du Soleil and Madame Zin­gara, and ac­ro­bat­ics, which led us to the­atre and The Fly­ing Germ Show.”

The half-hour show was di­rected by Gina Sh­muk­ler and fea­tured singer and Isidingo star Em­manuel Castis as Dom, and Idols fi­nal­ist Bianca Le Grange as Princess Sodium, with vir­tual per­for­mances by ac­tor Craig Ur­bani as Duke Hypochlo­rite and co­me­dian Alan Com­mit­tie as Ger­ma­niac.

Unilever’s brand ac­ti­va­tion part­ner, Ogilvy Action, brought in Col­lyer-Les­sick and as­so­ci­ates to pro­duce the spec­tac­u­lar. Ogilvy Action’s creative group head, Cameron Krieger, worked with the award-winning script-writer Jaci de Vil­liers to de­velop the script. Unilever’s con­sumer tech­ni­cal in­sight and global brand teams, based in Mi­lan, pro­vided in­for­ma­tion which had been “trans­lated” from sci­en­tific doc­u­ments into con­sumer-friendly lingo for in­cor­po­ra­tion into the story.

Alan Bell, MD of Ogilvy Action Dur­ban, says: “There is a huge move to­wards brand ac­ti­va­tion en­gag­ing peo­ple in an ex­pe­ri­en­tial way.

“This is not a TV ad sim­ply wash­ing over you. Nei­ther is it a store ex­pe­ri­ence where peo­ple are not in the head space to stop and lis­ten to you talk about your prod­uct while they shop.

“We have a bet­ter chance of land­ing the mes­sage if we en­gage with our mar­ket, and this the­atri­cal ex­pe­ri­ence does just that. This cam­paign re­ally com­ple­ments the above the line cam­paign.”

Stringer says au­di­ence re­sponse has been “amaz­ing”. And there has been a brand and bot­tom-line ben­e­fit, too, she be­lieves. Brand aware­ness, as charted monthly by Nielsen, has been at record highs since the cam­paign’s launch.

“The brand has in­creased its value share from 28 per­cent in 2008, to 31 per­cent for the year to July 09. Of course, it is not pos­si­ble to iden­tify the spe­cific im­pact of the in­di­vid­ual ac­tiv­i­ties in the to­tal cam­paign, but each had a par­tic­u­lar role to play.”

Al­though brand place­ment, spon­sor­ships and branded en­ter­tain­ment are not new ways to com­mu­ni­cate with con­sumers, The Fly­ing Germ Show was cre­ated specif­i­cally to de­liver the brand mes­sage.

“Be­cause peo­ple who hear of or see the show have such an en­joy­able and mem­o­rable ex­pe­ri­ence, and are fully en­gaged in the brand mes­sage, there is a much bet­ter chance that they will re­mem­ber it, and be per­suaded to make the brand their so­lu­tion,” says Stringer.

Pre­sent­ing a the­atri­cal ex­pe­ri­ence based on a spe­cific brand mes­sage at a cul­tural fes­ti­val is prob­a­bly a first in South Africa.

“We con­sid­ered care­fully where would be the best places to stage the show, and In­ni­bos Kun­ste­fees in Nel­spruit was an ideal op­tion, as it pro­vides con­cen­trated ac­cess to our core tar­get mar­ket (100 000 peo­ple in five days). The ‘talk­a­bil­ity’ and news­wor­thi­ness gen­er­ated by the un­ex­pected con­text also helped am­plify our mes­sage even fur­ther.”

To make the most of the show, says Stringer, a com­mit­ment was made to “in­vest in am­pli­fi­ca­tion of the ac­ti­va­tion”.

“You must reach your tar­get mar­ket, as you would aim to do with con­ven­tional me­dia chan­nels. Call-toac­tion mes­sages should be strongly branded and also de­liver the brand mes­sage, and the ac­ti­va­tion in it­self should be branded at the core.”

ANTI-GERM SU­PER­HEROES: Bianca Le Grange as Princess Sodium and Em­manuel Castis as Dom in

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