Whoopi Goldberg Pitches Poise Light Incontinence Products

Kimberly-Clark Wants to Stoke Conversation About Condition That Affects 1 in 3 -- and Many Young Women

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BATAVIA, Ohio (AdAge.com) -- Whoopi Goldberg has played many roles, but her latest is perhaps the most daring: She's the new voice and face of light bladder leakage.

Ms. Goldberg stars in and largely created a new series of webisodes for Kimberly-Clark Corp.'s Poise from WPP Group's Mindshare Entertainment, New York, that humorously portray women through history facing bouts of light incontinence -- including Eve, Cleopatra, Mona Lisa and Joan of Arc. The goal is to get women to talk about something almost no one wants to discuss, even though K-C says one in three women over 18 experience the condition.

Today in People.com and tomorrow on "The View," a show she co-hosts, Ms. Goldberg discusses light bladder leakage, something she deals with herself, according to K-C.

The "One in three like me" campaign also includes print (some with and some without Ms. Goldberg) and TV ads (without Ms. Goldberg) from WPP's JWT, New York, to highlight how common the problem is, even among young women.

In webisodes to be hosted at 1in3likeme.com, video-sharing sites and on online advertising promotions, Ms. Goldberg, playing Eve, discusses suffering "spritzes" when she laughs and implies, as Mona Lisa, that her mysterious smile is the result of modest embarrassment over the condition. The webisodes were unscripted and largely created spontaneously by Ms. Goldberg, said Andrew Meurer, VP-feminine, adult and senior products at K-C.

Women's reticence on the subject is natural, he said, but it leads to an incorrect image for the condition and bad product choices -- both for the women and K-C. Poise has more than 60% share of the market for products to handle light bladder leakage, Mr. Meurer said, but only about 30% of women with the condition are aware of the brand. Of the other 70%, most use sanitary pads to address the problem.

But other feminine products aren't designed to handle bladder leakage, he said (and, yes, there are significant design differences). The other problem, at least for K-C, is that its feminine-protection brand, Kotex, only has about a 15% share. So chances are that the women using sanitary pads are using those of a rival, most likely Procter & Gamble Co.'s Always, which has more than a 50% share of the sanitary pad market.

Poise's biggest marketing push
Mr. Meurer didn't disclose spending, but said the campaign represents by far the biggest marketing outlay in Poise's 14-year history, and will be worth the spending if the brand can dramatically change the nature -- or lack -- of conversation about the problem it addresses.

"A lot of young women even have this," said Mr. Meurer, including 20% of women between the ages of 18 and 24. "The issue is that no women know that. ... It's taboo. And the reason they don't want to talk about it is that they associate it, even the young women, with aged incontinence. They immediately say, "Holy cow, I'm doing to be in Depends tomorrow.' And that's like one foot in the grave to them."

K-C also makes Depend, but it's not for light bladder leakage, which also has many causes besides age.

Women are more likely to have the condition, Mr. Meurer said, if they've had hysterectomies or multiple children, if they're heavier or if they're athletes, particularly runners and tennis players.

"The marketing task is how do we move [Poise] out of the aged incontinence [mind-set]?" Mr. Meurer said. Realistically, he's also trying to move it out of the adult incontinence sections of stores, where it sits alongside canes, Depends and orthopedic support products, and instead adjacent to feminine-care products, with K-C has already succeeded in doing at about half of U.S. Stores.

The campaign is something of an acid test of K-C's integrated-communications planning program and it is getting all its marketing-services shops to play nicely together. JWT came up with the "One in three like me" campaign idea, which also includes ads showing women other than Ms. Goldberg, either runners or moms who suffer from the problem. But the brand team also wanted something more than a conventional campaign to get conversations started.

"While we liked the idea of 'One in three like me' and addressing the condition and making it seem more normal, we needed something that had more breakthrough to it," Mr. Meurer said. "So we talked about a celebrity being part of that, someone with a high Q rating and a lot of trust. ...The goal is to reach every woman [with the condition] in some way, shape or form and get them to try the sample, because once they try it, they'll find it works fundamentally better."

A different approach
Because different women need different products, Poise needs women to sign up for samples individually rather than doing a mass mailing, another reason to launch a campaign different enough to provoke a response.

Mindshare Entertainment came up with the idea of using Ms. Goldberg in the campaign and the webisodes, and the agency's president, David Lang, struck the deal with her. "In order to ignite conversation, we had to take a different approach," he said. "So we said let's do it through comedy, not making fun of the condition, but telling people it's OK to talk about it and to empower them to talk about it. So we said, from a creative perspective, if one in three women actually have this condition, what if some of the most famous women in history had this, and what would their stories be like?"

Mindshare talked to Ms. Goldberg about the characters she was most interested in and thought she could bring to life, which she did in a largely impromptu manner. "I met with Whoopi originally about a year and a half ago and we had a very good first meeting," Mr. Lang said. "Shortly thereafter, I got engaged by the Poise team and Kimberly-Clark and I thought there was a tremendous fit with this idea ... and I sat down and pitched it with Whoopi."

Webisodes are the best way for the campaign to play out, he said, "because one of the things women are looking for on the web are community and conversation." That community aspect had a major impact for the "In the Motherhood" campaign in 2007 for Unilever and Sprint, he said. "If you really want to ignite a conversation, [online] is the place to do it."

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