Entertainment A-List 2010

Entertainment A-List No. 7: Mindshare and Unilever

Web Programs, 'Reverse Upfront' Strategy for TV Integrations Help Redefine Category

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Unilever and Mindshare Entertainment are redefining what it means for A-list talent to endorse a product or participate in branded programming while still finding mass audiences for brands.

Three years ago, the marketer and its agency set the gold standard for branded entertainment online with "In the Motherhood," an original MSN series starring Leah Remini and Chelsea Handler sponsored by Unilever's Suave (as well as fellow Mindshare client Sprint). The series' second season garnered more than 15 million views and led to the development of a (short-lived) ABC sitcom of the same name -- the first time a web series had ever been turned into a broadcast prime-time series. Three years later, Mindshare and Unilever's talent and production roster continue to expand, and viewers -- not to mention Hollywood producers -- are starting to take notice.

David Lang and Rob Master
David Lang and Rob Master
In 2009, Unilever and Mindshare assembled a who's who of TV and film talent to star in uniquely 21st century takes on commercial entertainment, from "Will & Grace" vet Megan Mullally's musical commercials for I Can't Believe It's Not Butter to "30 Rock" star Jane Krakowski's "Gone With the Wind" tribute for Breyer's Ice Cream to this year's pairing of Academy Award-winner Marisa Tomei with Bertolli pasta for "Into the Heart of Italy," a Yahoo series that premiered to 41 million viewers during this year's Academy Awards.

And to think that all these projects have been developed with just an eight-person staff at Mindshare Entertainment, a nimble, multitasking team at Unilever and an increasingly flexible community of top-tier producers in Hollywood.

"It takes a delicate balance of having the right economic model and the right people with the right skill-sets to get these things done," said David Lang, president, Mindshare Entertainment. "But our campaigns have significantly moved the needle from awareness to consideration to purchase intent all the way down to increases in sales for our clients' brands."

Number of streams for the second season of "In the Motherhood," considered the gold standard of branded entertainment
Number of projects produced by Mindshare in 2009
Number of viewers who tuned into "Into the Heart of Italy" and Poise's Whoopi Goldberg spots during the Academy Awards
For Rob Master, media director for Unilever North America, the marketer's work with Mindshare Entertainment stems from a broader "reverse-upfront" strategy the No. 2 package-goods company kicked off last year with its media partners to secure premier integrations and partnerships with TV shows and online entertainment. "We don't have to be written into the script, or the show doesn't have to be about us. If it's a great piece of content that's going to be on mobile, on digital through social media and these other places, we want to be associated with that because it delivers against our brands' attributes."

Laura Klauberg, Unilever's global media chief, called Mindshare Entertainment's work "outstanding" in its ability to pair the company's brands such as Dove with key talent like Felicity Huffman (in 2006's "Dove Calming Nights" web series) and Alicia Keys (2008's micro-series that aired during MTV's "The Hills") and still benefit the bottom line. "In all of these campaigns, we have seen lifts in overall brand awareness, brand saliency and overall return on marketing investment," she said.

Mindshare's work is not just limited to Unilever. Of the 14 projects the group executed last year, other notables include a branded miniseries for Sprint that aired during "Desperate Housewives"; "In Gayle We Trust," an American Family Insurance-branded web series for NBC.com; and a series of commercial spots and webisodes for Kimberly-Clark's Poise starring Whoopi Goldberg.

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