CW's 'Cwinger' Ads Debut in 'Gossip Girl'

Unilever's Dove Is First to Use Format That Pushes Viewers From TV to Web and Back Again

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Starting next Monday, CW will air new ads that aim to travel with the audience they target. The network intends to unveil its first "cwingers," or ads that push viewers to move from TV to online and then back again, starting April 27 during the network's flagship "Gossip Girl" program.

Jessica Szohr, who plays outsider Vanessa Abrams on 'Gossip Girl,' will host the vignettes.
Jessica Szohr, who plays outsider Vanessa Abrams on 'Gossip Girl,' will host the vignettes. Credit: The CW
Unilever's Dove, which is getting set to release a new product, Go Fresh Burst Body Wash, aimed at women in their 20s, will sponsor video vignettes about four real 20-something women who once lived lives similar to the characters in the popular drama about wealthy Manhattan private-school kids whose adventures often border on the decadent. The first part of a vignette will air during "Gossip Girl," and then viewers will be directed to watch the rest of it online.

The program's viewers "consume media in a very different way," said Kathy O'Brien, marketing director for Dove in the U.S. A younger female consumer is often "on the couch and the laptop is open in their lap at the same time, and she's probably taking calls [on a mobile phone] at the same time."

As intriguing as they sound, "cwingers" represent an admission from broadcast networks that their audiences are not always consuming the entertainment they beam into the nation's living rooms in traditional fashion, i.e. on TV. With more fans of shows using the web, video-streaming sites and mobile devices to keep up with their favorite programming, marketing messages have to zip from one medium to the next.

"With this program, we're doing something that we haven't done before with any of our shows, but we think this is totally relevant to this show's audience," said Alison Tarrant, senior VP-integrated sales and marketing at the CW network. CW announced its intention to test out "cwingers" in May of last year.

A recent study of media-consumption habits found that consumers between the ages of 18 and 34 take in an average of eight-and-a-half hours of media overall, with 210 minutes -- about three-and-a-half hours -- devoted to live TV. Younger baby boomers between the ages of 45 and 54 consume an average of just over nine-and-a-half hours each day. Of that time, 336 minutes per day, more than five-and-a-half hours, is devoted to live TV. Younger consumers devote more time to the web and playback of recorded shows on digital video recorders than their older counterparts, the study found.

Jessica Szohr, who plays outsider Vanessa Abrams on "Gossip Girl," will host the vignettes, which will air nationwide during the last commercial break of the show in each of the series' last four episodes of the season.

Each of the videos, which will run under the rubric of "Gossip Girl: Real NYC Stories Revealed," will introduce a new story in a 90-second ad on broadcast TV. Fans can then catch the finale of each story by visiting cwtv.com/dovegofresh via computer or mobile device. Behind-the-scenes footage of the making of the video series, interviews with Ms. Szohr and the women profiled in the vignettes will also be made available along with information about Dove's Go Fresh product line.

The demographic is a relatively new target for the Dove brand, which typically aims at women 35 years of age and over, said Ms. O'Brien. Unilever has sparked a lot of attention for Dove beauty products with a long-running program it calls "The Campaign for Real Beauty" that aims to use real women of various shapes and sizes rather than models in commercials.

Dove and CW have worked on this particular project since last summer, executives said, with Warner Brothers, "Gossip Girl's" production studio, also involved in the process. Dove and CW are sharing the costs of producing the videos. Talks emerged out of discussions between the two during "upfront" negotiations, when networks sell the majority of their ad inventory for the fall season. The network, owned jointly by CBS and Time Warner, has in its young history unveiled a number of new ad formats that give marketers a larger presence during commercial time, and broken some of the industry's conventions as part of its efforts.

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