Rather than buy a boring product placement on hit Brazilian reality show "Big Brother" late last month, DDB Brasil persuaded the show's producers to glue the final four contestants upside down after spreading Henkel's Super Bonder on the bottom of reinforced shoes. While suspended by their feet, the four had to toss a ball into a basket in an upside-down version of basketball to determine who got to be the leader in the program's next trial.
"It was all done on live TV," said Sergio Valente, DDB Brasil's president. "It definitely showed that the product is instant glue."
More than 60 million people in 21 million Brazilian TV homes-an audience share of about 45%-watched for 10 minutes as the stunt unfolded on Brazil's leading network TV Globo. The program's announcer warned viewers "Don't try this at home!" He explained that although the glue would hold, the soles of their shoes would rip off, dropping the wearers on their heads.
The surprised viewers included Henkel executives from around the world and the company's wholesaler clients, all gathered for a company meeting that was interrupted to watch the program.
The stunt was live but well-rehearsed. During four weeks of secret practices, about 50 people were glued to the ceiling at Henkel's laboratory in Sao Paulo. Then three tests were done under real conditions at TV Globo's studio in Rio de Janeiro. A final rehearsal, the day the program aired, took eight hours, in a final push to ensure that the live segment would go smoothly and safely.
Joel Amorim, Henkel's marketing and trade marketing regional manager in Brazil, said Super Bonder is being relaunched this year with a 50% stronger formula, so the challenge was to communicate the product's speed and power. It's also hard to increase sales in Super Bonder's biggest market in the world, where the brand already has an 80% market share due to Brazilians' tendency to use the product to stick just about anything together.
Mr. Amorim, who has had himself glued upside down by his feet-twice-to see what it was like, was aware of the risks of the live TV stunt. For instance, the Big Brother contestants could have balked at being glued upside down, implying a lack of confidence in the glue's holding power. But he wasn't too worried.
"It was a big bang for the buck," he said. "No one in Brazil talked about anything else the next day."
Henkel is already using a hanging man image on its packaging and point-of-sale materials, and has shot an international commercial, breaking April 15 in Brazil, using a hanging man. Now Mr. Amorim is happily describing his brand advertainment triumph to other Henkel marketing executives around the world, after sending a CD to company headquarters in Germany.