Who said you can’t teach an old dog new-media tricks? While younger
media guys and fleeter advertisers gnaw their knuckles about missing the
new-media wave, one of media’s more - ahem - seasoned professionals and
one of the world’s biggest advertisers have teamed up to go digital.
In its first move into dotcom start-ups, Unilever has taken a stake in
Wowgo, a new internet brand of which Mike Gold (a founder of Gold
Greenlees Trott) is the chairman. But before you imagine web page after
web page expounding the joys of soap powder, loo cleaner and frozen
peas, this is not simply another example of an advertiser knee-jerking a
presence on the web.
Like Procter & Gamble, which teamed up with Excite UK last month,
Unilever has set its sites on the teenage market, which as a target is
harder to get right but easier to define as a niche audience.
For such mass-market companies, a niche portal targeting young girls is
not exactly an obvious route. What is really interesting is the decision
to eschew the sort of generic female sites (CharlotteStreet.com,
Handbag.com and the new BeMe.com) which, you might think, would be the
natural route for such traditional ’housewife’ advertisers.
But you only have to look at the paucity of the current slew of female
portals to see one of the main problems. None of the internet sites
targeting women has any real stand-out or appreciable branding, and they
leave me cold. Nothing about the proposition of CharlotteStreet or
Handbag appeals to me, probably because, while I might be female, that
is not what defines my interests or determines what I find
No-one’s cracked the female audience on the web, yet. While men log on
in droves to their favourite (sports) sites, women are still web
So, with the frozen peas approach too dull to translate into a website,
and the generic female thing too, well, unfocused, Unilever and P&G have
broken with their own traditions, as befits a new medium.
What both the Unilever and P&G initiatives acknowledge is the
difficulties of designing portals for women, but also the potential for
harnessing the internet’s ability to tell us more about each other,
something which all too often gets lost in the headlong rush to get on
the net at all costs.
For Unilever, the idea of Wowgo is to blend information, chat and
interactivity in a way that can deliver real insight into how teenage
girls feel about brands, track trends in the teen sector and do so in an
environment which - if they pull it off - will be empathetic to its
users and develop a co-operative relationship with tender young
consumers. Which is exactly what the internet should be about - not
churning out more patronising editorial aimed at ’women’.