Why J&J Wants Its Ads to Resemble the Games

Says Olympic-Themed Spots in Broadcast Have Three Times More Recall

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BATAVIA, Ohio (AdAge.com) -- Any resemblance between the heart-tugging vignettes shown during NBC's Summer Olympics coverage and a new campaign for Johnson's baby products in which athletes thank their moms is entirely intentional. And with good reason: The approach appears to work.
Videos: Goal is to be 'authentic and relevant for Mom,' said J&J's Tewell.
Videos: Goal is to be 'authentic and relevant for Mom,' said J&J's Tewell.

Johnson & Johnson's baby-care brand today breaks 15-, 30- and 60-second videos from Lowe, New York, behind its Olympics program on air and online via NBC Universal properties. The ads also will run on J&J's BabyCenter properties as well as YouTube and Meredith Corp. sites.

Though the ads won't just run on the Olympics, J&J sees value in making them look somewhat like the games coverage. NBC conducted studies with IAG Research during the 2006 Winter Games showing that advertisers such as Home Depot, which ran Olympic-themed ads, had more than three times the brand-message recall when the ads ran inside the games than when they ran outside.

"We're looking for as much of that synergistic effect as we can get," said Fred Tewell, group product director at Johnson's.

But the real idea, he said, is to give the six Olympic athletes a chance to thank their moms for all their hard work and support -- and, of course, to let Johnson's baby products bask in the glow of those good sentiments.

On location
The ads were shot with small crews in or outside the high-school tracks and community pools and parks where the athletes train or compete.

They don't involve the sort of compelling personal dramas for which Olympic coverage is famous, yet they still manage to pack an emotional punch as athletes start to choke up while thanking their moms. The testimonials are interspersed with baby and childhood pictures and videos.

"The intent was not to have beautiful, high-quality production values but to really capture the athletes in their own element," Mr. Tewell said. "Our goal is to be authentic and relevant for Mom, so when she makes a brand choice, she chooses our brand."

The digital campaign at baby.com/thanksmom has longer clips of the athletes' TV commercials, as well as an Olympic-themed animated cartoon featuring the voice of actress Mariska Hargitay and a cameo appearance by Janet Evans, five-time Olympic Gold medalist in swimming, both of whom are new mothers.
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