Madison + Vine: 'Veggie porn' aside, Dove OK with fake ads

By Published on .

To the surprise of many, the brand manager of Unilever's Dove isn't upset that his product placement on "The Apprentice 3" ended up with Dove being featured in a "vegetable porno" ad created by a team of Trump hopefuls.

In the Feb. 10 episode, Team Magna showed a female chef lovingly stroking a 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 blatant misuse of the product, showed a marathon runner with a goofy smile inexplicably smearing his face with gooey body wash before toweling off.

The spots set tongues wagging that Unilever may have been less than pleased, but Dove's brand manager disputes that. "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, which supported the appearance with perhaps the most integrated marketing program behind an "Apprentice" placement to date. "It gave us a chance at the end of the show to launch our [real] Dove ad, and we've heard very positive feedback."

The placement, estimated at $2 million, 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.

the donald's endorsement

With 70,000 Google hits for "Dove and Apprentice," the brand by Feb. 17 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 tripled Nestle's Nescafe, with 21,400 Google hits 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 adviser Carolyn Kepcher, in one of their most deeply embedded advertising moments ever, hawked a Dove contest whose winners will visit the season finale. The plug also introduced the "real" ad for Dove Cool Moisture Body Wash from WPP Group's Ogilvy & Mather, Chicago.

That ad, in another first for soap, features both a geisha and Miss Piggy and ties in to a Web site survey to choose visitors' favorite Dove ad character-currently a horse race between The Donald and Miss Piggy.

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

Dove backed up its placement with newspaper ads, live radio drive-time DJ promotions and rich-media ads on Yahoo the day after the show. The Donald and Ms. Kepcher also lent their shtick to national Wal-Mart TV ads for Dove, tied to 700 in-store displays with scent samples.

Dove executives said they were as surprised as everyone else by the ads, since they didn't get to see them until the show aired. Nearly 12 hours later, Unilever offered 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" stars who wish to join her.

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

In this article:
Most Popular