Pampers Steps Up Digital, Social-Media Efforts

Amid Fury Over Dry Max, Brand Sells Ads on Pampers.com to Pay for Experimental Marketing

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A correction has been made in this story. See below for details.

NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Pampers' struggles with critics in social media over its Dry Max diaper launch hasn't dimmed the brand's -- or Procter & Gamble's -- interest in social or digital media. Indeed, Pampers is stepping up efforts on both, VP-North American Baby Care Jodi Allen said today at the Association of National Advertisers Brand Innovation Conference in New York.

"I've had a lot of people ask me if we're going to pull back ... in terms of digital and social media, and the absolute answer is no," said Ms. Allen. She said, Pampers will step up its digital advertising next month in response to return-on-investment data showing positive results for Dry Max from such efforts.

Ms. Allen said Pampers also has been selling advertising on its own site, Pampers.com, to non-competing marketers of baby products, using the money to defray costs of experimental marketing efforts. Pampers.com ranks as one of the larger baby-focused sites on the web, with 1.5 million unique U.S. visitors in March, according to Compete.com. "I feel like if you're not experimenting for what comes next, you're going to be left in the dust," she said.

Of course, Pampers also has been using plenty of traditional media, in-store media and promotion to launch Dry Max, all of which appears to be overwhelming negative effects on the brand from social and traditional media coverage of complaints by parents that the new diapers cause diaper rash and otherwise don't perform as well as the old versions.

The main Facebook group of parents criticizing the new Pampers and asking for the company to bring back the old diapers has more than 9,700 supporters. But P&G's pre-launch marketing alone, which included a TV ad during the Winter Olympics created from videos submitted by parents, distribution of specially themed Olympic diapers to U.S. athletes and an online video featuring New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees with his son and a football-themed product demo, generated 400 million consumer impressions, Ms. Allen said.

By the end of this month, she said 40% of moms of U.S. babies will have tried Dry Max diapers. And she said Pampers sales and market shares continue to climb. Media reports about the diaper-rash controversy have reached millions more people in recent weeks, and Ms. Allen acknowledged difficulty getting the brand's message across. "We take that very seriously and our hearts go out to anybody whose baby is experiencing that," she said. But, she added, "Diapers don't cause diaper rash. Our diapers don't cause diaper rash. Our competitors' diapers don't cause diaper rash." Disposable diapers, she has said, have actually reduced diaper rash over the years, but 2.5 million U.S. babies still have it at any time, she said.

In response to the social-media controversy, she said the brand has increased efforts around third-party endorsements from parenting magazines and their parent panels, and also took out what was to be an online-only ad focused on Mother's Day.

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CORRECTION: An earlier headline said Pampers was selling ads on Facebook. The brand is selling ads to non-competing marketers on its own website.

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