Axe's Reboot of 'Romeo & Juliet' Gets Really Creative With Programmatic

Shakespeare's Classic Is Remade in More Than 100,000 Versions for Brazilian Viewers

Published On
Aug 10, 2015

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While an intriguing concept, programmatic creative in practice often boils down to tweaking background colors, swapping out models or changing cents-off offers in banner ads. Now, Unilever's Axe is trying something far more ambitious in Brazil -- trailers for "Romeo Reboot," a faux cinematic remake of Shakespeare's tragedy in which almost everyone sees a different story.

These so-called "generative trailers" come from Axe's digital agency in Brazil, Interpublic's CUBOCC, Sao Paulo, working with the shop's recently opened New York office. The result is something that Matheus Barros, who runs the New York office and helms strategy for the shop globally, believes both creatives and consumers will want to engage with more than the less-ambitious programmatic creative offerings to date.

The campaign, launched last month, breaks the Axe target consumer into four segments, offering 25,000 permutations to each segment, or 100,000 in all. Working with research firm Box1824, CUBOCC segmented the target clusters -- based on such factors as musical tastes, brands they identified with and other consumption preferences -- into Artsy, Fresh, Naturals and Roots groups.

Of 11 scenes in the trailer, six can vary according to the viewer's profile. The agency validated the segmentation by serving different versions of the trailer to people in the target groups as part of a test that monitored how well people completed viewing and otherwise responded. As the campaign runs in Brazilian digital media, the agency keeps optimizing the results based on how people are responding.

Customization in the trailers ranges from subtle to extensive, with a range of music, sexual and romantic content. Some versions show a man in an office. Others focus more on nighttime crime-story action or sci-fi action featuring a cyclops.

See more versions of the ad and read the full story on Axe's "Romeo" reboot on