Most recently, Huggies has signed on to air five video-on-demand segments on Meredith Corp.'s Parents TV cable network via Comcast (extending a VOD program the brand launched last year with PBS Kidsprout) and signed on as exclusive sponsor of NBC Universal's Newborn Channel, which airs in more than 2,000 hospital maternity wards.
The Meredith TV deal also extends a program Huggies began last year that sends mini-magazines (including Spanish-language editions) to expectant and new moms, customized based on their trimester of pregnancy or the age of their children. The program has distributed more than 6 million magazines, produced through Meredith's American Baby, via direct mail and childbirth-education classes.
While Huggies spent nearly $65 million in measured media last year, according to TNS Media Intelligence, and another $21 million this year, the brand sees its growing web of exclusive TV and VOD deals and custom publishing as a crucial new front in the battle for the hearts and minds of moms.
"The potential reach in terms of people who have access to the video on demand is fairly significant," said Brad Santeler, director-media and relationship marketing for Kimberly-Clark, of the most recent Parents TV deal. The number of moms who watch the videos, on subjects such as diapering, washing and playing with newborns, is relatively small, he said, but "what we're giving up in reach, we're gaining in composition and relevancy."
WPP Group's MindShare, New York, has led media planning and buying for Huggies, and sibling JWT handles creative.
Though the relationship-marketing efforts are part of a movement that has shifted 25% of Kimberly-Clark marketing spending to nontraditional media, Mr. Santeler said it's mostly about augmenting rather than replacing conventional TV.
The VOD push also aims to further a shift in the brand's communications from commercials to content, Mr. Santeler said. Huggies is in the process of putting its baby-care videos on HuggiesBabyNetwork.com later this year and also will likely also add them to Kimberly-Clark.com.
The moves address what Pete Blackshaw, exec VP-strategic services for Nielsen Online and the father of twins, has long found lacking on child-care sites: video content to help new parents learn the ropes.
But Mr. Santeler said Huggies also is trying to make the commercials-to-content move within conventional media -- by ensuring its magazine ads run within related content whenever possible, for example. "In those situations," he said, "we have evidence the messaging becomes content to them, and it's almost as valuable."
Meredith has helped foster the shift, he said, with integrated efforts to combine TV, custom publishing and promotion programs into a single package. "They've been interested in doing deeper marketing partnerships," said Stacey Tomada, brand media manager for Huggies. "When these magazines are passed out through a childbirth-education provider, it's seen almost as an endorsement."
Of course, Huggies has been playing catch-up in some nontraditional channels. Pampers began sponsoring childbirth-education classes more than a decade ago. And Pampers.com, among among the biggest package-goods websites, bolstered by a deep archive of parenting advice heavily indexed by search engines, easily beats Huggies' three websites combined in traffic, according to Alexa.