A Murder Mystery Web Game Solves Problem for Margarine Brand

Entertainment Effort Keeps I Can't Believe It's Not Butter Fans Engaged

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The deal: Unilever's I Can't Believe It's Not Butter launched the animated web series "Who Framed Spraychel?" this summer.

The result: The effort proved to be an engaging branded-entertainment campaign, luring consumers to spend an average of 12 minutes on the I Can't Believe It's Not Butter brand website.

Blond Spraychel was falsely accused of murdering a pat of butter in Unilever's seven-part web series. This type of branded entertainment appeals to fans of the marketer's I Can't Believe It's Not Butter.

Margarine spray and a murder mystery don't seem like a predictable recipe for a successful promotion -- unless, of course, your brand's core consumer loves soap operas and online mystery games.

Unilever's I Can't Believe It's Not Butter brand launched "Who Framed Spraychel?" July 17. The seven-webisode crime drama features a blond margarine spray bottle, Spraychel, who is falsely accused of murdering a pat of butter named Buttricia. Unilever offered $20,000 to whoever solved the crime after watching the webisodes; clues were also planted on the brand's website.

Driving traffic to website

TV commercials, an e-mail blast and ads on other dot-coms helped drive traffic to the brand's site, said Keith Bobier, senior director of marketing for I Can't Believe It's Not Butter.

Once there, visitors stayed on the brand's site an average of 12 minutes. Before the campaign, time spent on the brand's website averaged between three to five minutes, said Stacy Thomson, director of marketing services at Byte Interactive, the digital agency that worked with Unilever on the campaign.

The marketer declined to disclose the number of unique visitors free-spraychel.com attracted during the campaign.

"It's a very engaging experience, and it gives us the kind of contact [with consumers] that we simply can't get with traditional marketing," Mr. Bobier said.

In addition to watching the webisodes and playing the online game, visitors could send text messages to receive clues, explore a private investigator's office, read an online newspaper covering the webisode events and visit Spraychel on MySpace.com/freespraychel, where she had more than 8,500 friends.

They could also e-mail the webisode's other characters.

Getting in touch with 'Cobbio'

In one e-mail, a consumer wrote to Cobbio, an ear of corn voiced by romance-novel cover model (and I Can't Believe It's Not Butter spokesman) Fabio: "Greetings Cobbio, First of all, I would like to say that you are a fine lawyer, and if I was of the vegetable race, we could definitely hook up."

Another wrote to Spraychel, saying: "Hey Spraychel. I wanted to say that it is a shame what they did to you. And I'm sorry. It's not your fault that you do taste better."

The foundation for the crime drama was built around the preferences of the brand's core consumer.

"We wanted to bring content to her that fit seamlessly into the way she spends her time," Mr. Bobier said.

Unilever first introduced Spraychel in July 2005 with an online soap opera -- because soap operas are at the top of the core consumers' interests, Mr. Bobier said. Spraychel and the other characters in the soap opera were so successful they appeared in the murder mystery to maintain a consistent marketing perspective, Ms. Thomson added.

Popular type of entertainment

Research showed the brand's core consumer liked to play games online, including mystery games, Ms. Thomson said. "We knew it was a popular type of entertainment, very interactive; however, you don't have to play in order to enjoy the webisodes," she said.

I Can't Believe It's Not Butter spent $12.8 million on traditional media in 2005, according to TNS Media Intelligence. The brand does not break out how much it spends on online campaigns. However, it does plan to launch a new batch of webisodes in spring 2007.

The final webisode exposing who framed Spraychel was broadcast Aug. 21. On that day, traffic to the site jumped 25% and Spraychel attracted 700 new MySpace friends, Mr. Bobier said.

In case you're wondering, here's how the mystery ended: Buttricia faked her own death and molded herself to be another character, Nurse Lardis. Surprise witness Sally Spritzer, a Wishbone Salad Spritzer, saw it all.
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