UNILEVER LAUDS 'APPRENTICE' VEGETABLE PORNO STUNT

Dove Brand Manager Cites Buzz and Web Traffic Results

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CINCINNATI -- To the surprise of many, the brand manager of Unilever's Dove isn't upset that his product placement on The Apprentice ended up with Dove being featured in a "vegetable porno" ad created by a team of Trump hopefuls.
Dove's product placement became a porno gag about erotic cucumbers.



In an episode that aired Feb. 10, Team Magna showed a female chef lovingly stroking the cucumber held by a male colleague, who, to her chagrin, goes off with another man instead. The tagline: "It's a refreshing twist," just like cucumber-infused Dove Cool Moisture Body Wash.

Team Net Worth, in a less intentionally pornographic misuse of soap, showed a marathon runner with an inexplicably goofy smile as he smeared his face with gooey body wash before toweling off.

Consumers smart enough to know

"We believe consumers are smart enough to realize that Dove had nothing to do with the development of those ads," said Rob Master, senior brand manager for Dove. "It gave us a chance at the end of the show to launch our [real] Dove ad, and we've heard very positive feedback."

Other marketers like Crest, Nescafe and Yahoo Local spent nearly $1 million in product placement fees to appear in past episodes of The Apprentice with in-show mentions that were positive.

But Mr. Master said he doesn't mind the controversy and loves the buzz that the Trumpian appearance created around Dove.

The episode lured 3,000 visitors a second to Dove.com in the minutes immediately following the show, leading to distribution of 400,000 samples through Feb. 15 and thousands of new names for Dove's direct-marketing programs.

Google traffic

With 47,500 Google hits for "Dove and Apprentice," the brand by Feb. 15 had edged out Procter & Gamble Co.'s Crest (with 46,300) as the Apprentice marketer to generate the most Google hits. The number also more than doubled Nestle's Nescafe, with 21,400 Google queries from a week earlier. Dove and The Apprentice accounted for three of the top eight entries in Yahoo's "Buzz Index" three days after the show.

It didn't hurt that at show's end The Donald and his boardroom advisor Carolyn Kepcher, in one of their most deeply embedded advertising moments ever, hawked a Dove contest whose winners will visit the season finale and introduced the "real" ad for Dove Cool Moisture Body Wash that was created by WPP Group's Ogilvy & Mather, Chicago.

That ad, in another first for soap, features both a geisha and Miss Piggy. It also ties into a Dove.com survey to choose visitors' favorite Dove ad character -- currently a horse race between Mr. Trump and Miss Piggy.

Not a makegood

Mr. Trump's hawking of the real Dove ad was planned all along, not a makegood forced by the appalling fake ads, Mr. Master said. "It worked out perfectly," he said, "because the [fake] ads were so awful."

Dove executives said they were as surprised as everyone else by how bad the ads were, since they didn't get to see them until the show aired. Nearly 12 hours later, Unilever had issued a press release offering to send Kristen Kirchner, the 31-year-old real estate agent who took the fall for both teams' failures, to a Dove "marketing boot camp" -- along with as many other failed Apprentice contestants who wish to join her. Ms. Kirchner has enlisted already.

Elsewhere, in perhaps the broadest integrated marketing program to date around an Apprentice placement, Dove also ran newspaper ads, live radio drive-time DJ promos and rich media ads on Yahoo the day after the show. Mr. Trump and Ms. Kepcher also lent their schtick to national Wal-Mart TV ads, also tied to 700 in-store displays with scent samples.

The Dove effort appears to set a "new bar for cross-channel integration" in package goods, said Pete Blackshaw, chief marketing officer of Intelliseek, which monitors online marketing buzz. "That said, the question remains whether the ad content [on the show] reinforced or eroded the brand's equity."
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