After raising eyebrows -- and, for some, the follicles on the back of the neck -- in 2006 with a cheeky website that hawked a shaver for intimate male areas, Philips Electronics is back with a sequel of sorts. Starting today, visitors to shaveeverywhere.com will be able to watch a series of dramatic monologues -- Philips calls them "manologues" -- on the ins and outs of male hair trimming. One dramatization walks viewers through the difficult and delicate task of having to explain genital-hair trimming to a father. One letter from a guy in Boston tells the tale of a blond roommate who hoarded his hair in jars after shaving it off.
"We came up with an approach where young guys are comfortable talking about body grooming, whereas in public, they are not," said Arjen Linders, senior director-customer marketing for Philips Norelco shaving and beauty. "On the web, in an informal, funny way, you can make it a serious topic of discussion."
And do it again, too. While TV ad campaigns come and go, marketers are discovering that some web-based creative lasts for years. Philips never took down its initial effort, which featured a guy in a bathrobe talking about the company's Bodygroom shaver while pictures of carrots and kiwi fruits popped onscreen to help describe sensitive parts of the male anatomy.
Because many of these ads are aimed at a narrow slice of the general populace, they can last quite a while before approaching any sort of critical mass. "There's a whole lot of people on the web that still haven't seen it," said Steve Nesle, executive creative director at Omnicom Group's Tribal DDB Worldwide. He added: "It just takes an intrepid hunter or gatherer to open that concept to a whole new sphere of social networks."
Keeping up with users
The web is littered with the semiactive remains of popular web campaigns. Burger King's "Subservient Chicken" featured a guy in a chicken outfit responding to typed-in commands and has arguably become the granddaddy of the genre since launching in April 2004. It remains active at subservientchicken.com. "It's something we have to monitor closely. You now have more websites than human beings on the planet," Mr. Linders said. "What do you maintain and when do you remove something?" Philips has kept Shaveeverywhere.com active -- and even ran a series of videos on the site about removing ear and nose hair called "Second Puberty." The company also has launched microsites for various products, which it keeps up for about six months.
If commercials featuring such characters ran on TV, they'd eventually reach millions of people. Philips' initial bathrobe-guy Bodygroom ad on the web reached 1.8 million unique users between its May 2006 launch and Dec. 12 of that year. Philips estimates there are 20 million men in the U.S. who could be eager for these kinds of grooming products, Mr. Linders said, "so we have a way to go yet."
Philips has greater goals and greater challenges for its latest execution because viewers are asked to submit their own tales of body-hair woes. That's arguably a subject not everyone is eager to share with the world.
"The original site didn't have a mechanism to encourage two-way dialogue," Mr. Nesle said. By keeping viewers talking to and about each other after watching the initial promotion, he said, "it's something that we hope will grow naturally." Kind of like body hair.