How Sam's Club Scored 24 Million Views for Private-Label Diaper Ad

Retailer Turned to Crowdsourcing From Tongal, Placement From Visible Measures

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Private-label diaper brands don't get much advertising. After all, part of what makes them cheaper is not spending on media or agencies.

But when Sam's Club introduced improved Members' Mark diapers under the Comfort Care brand last fall, the retailer wanted "a unique, social way to reach a big audience and get the word out about the brand," said Senior Buyer Casey Mcleod. And it did -- albeit in a cost-conscious way.

Sam's created an online video that's generated a whopping 24 million views to date in two versions, got spontaneously shared by New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski to his nearly 1.3 million Twitter followers, and ranked high on many Super Bowl-related video lists despite never running on the Super Bowl.

The ad came from creative crowdsourcing firm Tongal and was distributed by viral video optimization firm Visible Measures. It was seeded via paid placements on Facebook, YouTube, blogs and elsewhere. But none of its views came via pre-roll, nor did Sam's pay for any views that lasted less than 30 seconds, said Visible Measures Chief Strategy Officer Seraj Bharwani. And using Tongal's community of 100,000 creatives to create and produce the idea costs about a third of what using an agency would, by the estimate of James DeJulio, co-founder and chief creative officer of the crowdsourcing firm.

Sam's initially approached Visible Measures, which brought Tongal on board to handle creative, Mr. Bharwani said. Tongal's creatives are largely millennial and majority female, so they had plenty of Comfort Care's millennial mom target represented, Mr. DeJulio said.

The brief generated 400 ideas, with the one that made it into development being "country club babies," according to Mr. DeJulio. Sam's liked the gist of the idea, but came back with making them "spa babies" or "resort babies" to seem more accessible and less snobby. Tongal then put the idea back out to its filmmakers, producers and directors to storyboard the idea, and Pretty Nifty Productions, one of its more prolific production houses, won the assignment.

The creator of the winning idea got "a little over $1,000," Mr. DeJulio said. And Pretty Nifty's page on Tongal shows it got $11,875 for the original ad, with another $4,000 for a Super Bowl-themed revision.

The spa babies, named Riot and Falcon (though not so identified in the ad), made their debut in December, which Mr. Bharwani said was chosen as a "light noise" period after holiday-related videos have crested and Visible Measures data show competitive diaper advertising rarely breaks. Paid placement included YouTube, Facebook, a host of mom blogs and sites such as Hot Moms Club, he said. Sharing was strong, and comments were positive, including some folks who "thought it should be a Super Bowl ad," he said.

When Sam's saw that, it started a conversation about revising the ad for the Super Bowl period. Though the brand certainly wasn't going to pony up nearly $5 million to run it during the game, it did commission new football-themed voiceovers for Riot and Falcon.

The revised version came out the week before the Super Bowl to catch the wave of game-related video interest, Mr. Bharwani said. And it ranked No. 2 on Visible Measures' chart of non-Super Bowl advertisers' big-game videos the week of the game, also accounting for 94% share of attention among baby-care brands that week, according to the firm.

Sam's Club's Ms. Mcleod said she's "absolutely thrilled with the performance of the digital ad," which she believes contributed to a dramatic increase in product sample requests. "Since re-launching the diapers this past fall, we've seen very positive sales growth," she said, "and with the boost from this high-performing digital ad, we expect that trend will continue."

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