Why Unilever Execs Are Loving '24'

Webisode Partnership With Fox Show Helps Degree Men Sales Climb 20%

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BATAVIA, Ohio -- The "24" season lives on this year well into July in an animated "prequel" as part of the Fox series' link up with Degree deodorant, but Unilever marketers already see clear signs of success from the brand's largest-ever content-integration deal.

Unilever's Sam Chadha said sales of Degree Men are up 20% this year so far compared to last, and that it's the fastest-growing men's brand in the category, thanks in part to deals with '24.'

"CTU Rookie," a "24"-inspired webisode series from Degree that broke in January on CTURookie.com, and "Day Zero," the animated prequel that started during the season finale in May, have already attracted a combined total of more than 1.5 million visitors who are spending an average of 6 to 7 minutes on the sites, said Sam Chadha, marketing director for Unilever deodorants.

'It's definitely working'
Though he's yet to conclude the final analysis on the "24" deal, with three episodes left of "Day Zero" to break online in June and July, Mr. Chadha said: "I would say my gut instinct and the numbers I've seen tell me it's definitely working. It must be for all parties, because we're talking with Fox about continuing the relationship."

Brand health scores, based in part on consumer-perception surveys, will be one key to evaluating the tie-in, he said. But perhaps the most important measure, the deal, created by WPP Group's MindShare Entertainment, clearly is paying out. Mr. Chadha said sales of Degree Men are up 20% this year so far compared to last, and that it's the fastest-growing men's brand in the category.

Of course, it can be hard to separate the "24" tie-in from other parts of the marketing mix. Degree also has been running conventional TV ads from Interpublic Group of Cos.' Lowe, New York, featuring everything from the running of the bulls in Pamplona to obscenely hairy men using blow dryers on their underarms to counter the effect of unnamed deodorant gels (hint: they're referring to the Gillette series, subject to new ads from Procter & Gamble Co. this year).

Tracking deal all the way to checkout
But Mr. Chadha said the retail-marketing portion of the "24" effort has also clearly been a hit, and is easily tracked. It involves co-promotions and joint displays of Degree and "24" DVD sets, which are also promoted in post-roll ads on DayZero.com.

"To me, the holy grail of marketing is tying it back to retail as well," Mr. Chadha said. "It's been great, and showing up in our sales as well. ... We're converting fans of Special Agent Jack Bauer into Degree agents, and we've been able to have co-branded merchandising outside the deodorant aisle."

The promotion has won display space nationally, not only in Wal-Mart Stores and Target, which are natural locales because they sell lots of deodorant and DVDs, but also in supermarket and drug chains that generally sell relatively few DVDs. Getting the additional distribution in drug and grocery outlets, Mr. Chadha said, "was the pull for Fox."

While several marketers have been part of co-promotions with Walt Disney or other child-oriented DVDs, Mr. Chadha said he believes this is the first joint retail effort between a consumer brand and DVD sets for a top-rated TV show.

The program also appears to have gained momentum as it's gone on, based on Alexa data. A 30-second trailer promo for the animated "Day Zero" (which features the voice of Keifer Sutherland as Jack Bauer), appeared during the last commercial pod in the season finale of "24." That appeared to send more people to the DegreeMen.com microsite than a trailer-style ad during the NCAA College Football championship game in February for "CTURookie.com."
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