New Crest Flavor Gets TV/Online Treatment

Product placement met online promotion in a Procter & Gamble campaign launched on last night’s episode of “The Apprentice”. The effort, designed to introduce a new flavor of Crest toothpaste, began with an extended product placement, which was followed by an appeal to viewers to go online and submit their own ideas for a product launch.

On the reality TV show, the two Apprentice teams were given the task of getting New Yorkers excited about the new vanilla-mint flavored toothpaste with a $50,00 budget and limited time. At the end of the show, P&G marketing executives appealed to viewers in a commercial to go to Crest.com and explain how they would have completed the task given to the Apprentice teams. The winner will receive a trip to the final Apprentice show and be given VIP status as a guest at a Trump hotel.

Coordinating this campaign was quite a task, according to Ken Zinn, interactive marketing manager for Crest. It involved bringing together representatives from several internal and external agencies — public relations, media buying, media planning, programming and creative, as well as interactive promotions agency ePrize, which manages the administrative parts of the online effort.

“Interactive marketing managers, more than some of the other units, try to do the pulling together, because a lot of times you can centralize campaigns, promotions, and product launches better online than you can with TV,” Zinn said. “Audiences are becoming more fragmented and harder to reach every day on television. Before, if it was TV-centric, it worked great. Now the Internet has come along and taken over. I think Internet advertising will even surpass TV advertising in the next few years.”

Most of the online advertising placements for the campaign were made on Yahoo’s Apprentice site. Ads also appeared on AOL and MSN, E! Online, imdb and Reality TV World. Response last night immediately after the show was brisk, with the Crest site was getting over 100 ideas per minute. More than 32,000 people signed up just last night, Zinn said.

“When you have a TV ‘drive-to-Web’, you get a lot of people in a short amount of time. I wouldn’t want to do that with something like a Yahoo front page placement, or my marketing budget would be gone in one day,” he said.

The success of the campaign will mostly be measured in how many sales it actually drove. While it’s sometimes difficult to tie sales to online activity in general, it’s still the easiest measure to prove to the rest of the company the need to invest more in the online area, Zinn said.

Beyond sales, Zinn tries to take online metrics, like impressions, and translate them into something the old-school marketers in his company understand, like GRPs, gross rating points. The TV industry uses GRPs to determine the level of exposure an ad is getting.

“We have a formula to equate impressions to GRPs, and once we have those, we can look at it apples to apples. For 50 years, we’ve known what GRPs do for brands on TV, so once we do the calculation, it’s easy for the marketing folks to understand it when we put it in those recognizable terms,” Zinn said. “I’m trying to bring in terms like ‘clickthrough’ and ‘hits,’ but that’s really about as deep as I would go.”

The online promotion developed by ePrize includes a tell-a-friend component, and distributing free samples of the product. It’s one of a growing number of campaigns by large offline brands that the company has handled recently, said Josh Linkner, CEO of ePrize.

“We’re seeing a trend of interactive promotion becoming more of an ongoing strategy than a one-off. It’s really becoming an integral part of the marketing mix for many large brands,” he said.

Earlier this month, Apprentice producer Mark Burnett Productions struck a deal with Yahoo to produce, host and sell advertising for the official Web site for the second and third season of “The Apprentice,” and to integrate exclusive “Apprentice” content throughout the Yahoo network.

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