A profanity-laced video of a screaming bride who cuts chunks from her hair in a fit over her style drew 12 million YouTube views and reams of publicity, including segments on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" and "Good Morning America." At the same time, one of the biggest package-goods display ads on YouTube by a rival marketer generated a mere fraction of the views and attention -- but appears to be making its sponsor happier.
The reason: The bridezilla video reaped little recognition for Unilever's Sunsilk because it was unbranded, raising questions about how to measure marketing effectiveness in the age of YouTube.
Planning to go the LonelyGirl route, Unilever's Canadian brand team posted in mid-January the video of an f-bomb-dropping bride -- the first known instance of a package-goods player using profanity (not to mention light self-mutilation) in advertising.
The video was meant to build buzz around a TV ad about "hair wig outs" that also broke last month in the U.S. and Canada. But Unilever has been ambivalent about the unexpected attention the video received. The company temporarily yanked it off YouTube and scrapped plans for subsequent video shorts amid controversy over what news reports in the U.S. and Canada termed a hoax.
"It was never Sunsilk Canada's intent to portray anything other than a dramatization," Geoff Craig, VP-general manager of home and personal care for Unilever Canada, said in a statement. "In the context of dramatizing bad hair and hair wig outs as a problem, the intent was always to reveal Sunsilk as the solution." Additional videos weren't necessary, Mr. Craig's statement said, because "this phase has been successfully accomplished."
But unlike in Vegas, what happens in Canada doesn't stay there in the age of YouTube. The video, from promotion shop Capital C, Toronto, got more than a million views in two weeks. That prompted a Feb. 1 parody on NBC's "Tonight Show with Jay Leno," and the actresses involved in the video appeared on ABC's "Good Morning America" on Feb. 2 (the actresses made that appearance on their own initiative).
Neither show mentioned Sunsilk, a contrast to the major publicity lift "GMA" provided in October for Unilever's successful "Dove Evolution" viral program. This time, host Diane Sawyer noted only an unnamed "marketing company" behind the video.
Unilever acknowledged responsibility for the video for the first time in a terse Feb. 1 press release, however, and subsequent reports on CNN did link the video to Sunsilk.
Procter & Gamble Co.'s Herbal Essences, meanwhile, began in early February its branded "Dump Cupid" Valentine's Day program, headed by Resource Interactive, Columbus, Ohio, with help from Publicis Groupe's Kaplan Thaler Group (itself recently dumped by the marketer in favor of sibling Leo Burnett Co.). The push also includes the DumpCupid.com microsite, e-mail valentines, TV and outdoor ads, radio DJ endorsements, and a 30-foot heart that appeared along with Cupid on Feb. 9 in Times Square. The campaign will culminate with a major Valentine's Day buy on Yahoo.
The push focuses heavily on amateuresque videos, shot by Resource and KTG, of a cupid who's a cross between Jack Black and YouTube's Numa Numa guy and slings arrows carelessly. "That thing with you and your boss -- totally my bad," he says in one video valentine. "But, hey, you got another job. Eventually."
The most-watched "Dump Cupid" video so far has only about 170,000 views, according to Vidmeter.com, compared to a total of 3.3 million so far for Sunsilk's "wig out," just in its second incarnation on YouTube. But P&G appears happier with its YouTube experience, which included display ads on the video-sharing site that likely reached more than 90 million visitors globally last week, based on Alexa.com data.
P&G's most-visited brand website
Over the past two weeks, DumpCupid has been P&G's most-visited brand website, said Christopher Keith, Herbal Essences brand manager. He termed YouTube "an experimental part of the spending [but] certainly not the biggest part." As measured by Alexa, traffic to DumpCupid.com more than doubled to an estimated 44,000 daily visits last week after the YouTube ads appeared.
"We talked a lot about how you balance the branding in this program, where you put overt branding or go much more subtle," Mr. Keith said, but "there was no thought for us to do it totally unbranded [at any point]."