Axe Remakes Story of Romeo -- 100,000 Times

Brazilian Programmatic Creative Campaign Takes Customization To New Level

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While an intriguing concept, programmatic creative in practice often boils down to tweaking background colors, swapping out models or changing cents-off offers in banner ads. Now, Unilever's Axe is trying something far more ambitious in Brazil -- trailers for "Romeo Reboot," a faux cinematic remake of Shakespeare's tragedy in which almost everyone sees a different story.

These so-called "generative trailers" come from Axe's digital agency in Brazil, Interpublic's CUBOCC, Sao Paulo, working with the shop's recently opened New York office. The result is something that Matheus Barros, who runs the New York office and helms strategy for the shop globally, believes both creatives and consumers will want to engage with more than the less-ambitious programmatic creative offerings to date.

The campaign, launched last month, breaks the Axe target consumer into four segments, offering 25,000 permutations to each segment, or 100,000 in all. Working with research firm Box1824, CUBOCC segmented the target clusters -- based on such factors as musical tastes, brands they identified with and other consumption preferences -- into Artsy, Fresh, Naturals and Roots groups.

Of 11 scenes in the trailer, six can vary according to the viewer's profile. The agency validated the segmentation by serving different versions of the trailer to people in the target groups as part of a test that monitored how well people completed viewing and otherwise responded. As the campaign runs in Brazilian digital media, the agency keeps optimizing the results based on how people are responding.

Customization in the trailers ranges from subtle to extensive, with a range of music, sexual and romantic content. Some versions show a man in an office. Others focus more on nighttime crime-story action or sci-fi action featuring a cyclops.

Axe wanted something "more aggressive" than the "low customization" that programmatic creative has meant to date, Mr. Barros said. "We want each person to watch the trailer and think it really was made for them, and very different from what their friends see as well."

The campaign supports a relaunch of Axe in Brazil as the brand rolls out "White Label" products like those launched last year in the U.S. (and which get cameo roles in the Romeo trailer).

"Axe in Brazil is in a very important moment," said Nathalie Honda, brand manager for Axe in the country. "For that we wanted to have something totally new and different."

While it's a Brazilian campaign for now and in Portuguese, Ms. Honda said she's already heard interest from Axe marketers in other countries, including elsewhere in Latin America, about trying the customized trailers more broadly.

The campaign is expected to run through next month, and it's too soon to judge results, Ms. Honda said. But so far she's pleased with what she's seeing in terms of high completion rates for the 60-second trailers.

Axe is the No. 3 men's grooming brand in Brazil, Ms. Honda said, but unlike in the U.S. operates only in deodorants, not body wash, haircare or facial skincare. The brand hopes to expand and take leadership in men's grooming ultimately, she said.

The four versions below, all in Portuguese, provide a sample of the 100,000 permutations in the campaign.

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