China's 'Ugly Betty' is one long product placement: Watch the Hong
Kong interview with Mindshare executive Mateo Eaton.
included branded program promos, a blog by Betty, an in-store
collectors program, billboards, branded credits and a live online
chat with Betty at the end of season one. Dove dolls used in the
show were offered as promotional items.
Hong Kong-based Mateo Eaton, partner in Mindshare's Invention
unit, said the biggest challenge of the campaign was aligning the
media and brand teams at Unilever and getting the producers to
accept complicated valuation methodology to make the whole thing
"The challenge of this and all content campaigns is getting the
stars aligned so that a project can go ahead," he said. "You need a
program with good fit, a broadcast with good reach and the right
audience and good ratings potential, a price that proves value, and
a client with budget and campaigns that have the right timing."
What made it a success
He said there were several factors that helped make the campaign a
success, including the fit between "Ugly Betty" and Dove's
messaging. "Ugly Betty is a show about true beauty, which is
exactly what Dove's communication is all about," Mr. Eaton said.
"The fact that we had guaranteed broadcast on China's hottest
satellite network, Hunan, also was extremely important in terms of
hitting a truly mass audience." He added that having the show take
place in an ad agency made it "phenomenally" easy to script brand
communications and story lines about new campaigns that were true
to life and timed as they were occurring in the real world.
China's high tolerance for branded programming didn't hurt
either, he said, noting that one scene about Dove in the first
season crossed two episodes and totaled nearly 50 minutes of
product story line and product placement.
Mr. Eaton wouldn't discuss exact figures but said after season
five is done, "this will be Unilever's biggest content spend
anywhere. It is a multimillion-dollar, multi-season, multi-brand
The brand's overall investment for one season, with an average
of more than 23 million viewers a night and millions of searches
and blog entries, cost less than two weeks of traditional airtime
in Shanghai. Couple that with all the press coverage and free PR,
and Dove was able to basically double the value of its original
investment. Unaided awareness grew 75%, and sales shipments and
unsolicited calls from new distributors both doubled.