CAMPAIGN INTERACTIVE: BEHIND THE HYPE/PROCTER & GAMBLE - P&G looks beyond banner ads to boost its web presence. The company is emerging as something of a leader as advertising on the net matures. By Alasdair Reid

Procter & Gamble’s most effective web advertising to date is a campaign for the Scope mouthwash brand. Designed to complement the ’get kissably close’ television advertising in the US, the web campaign features a ’send-a-kiss’ pop-up box which allows people to send an e-mail kiss to their loved ones.

Procter & Gamble’s most effective web advertising to date is a

campaign for the Scope mouthwash brand. Designed to complement the ’get

kissably close’ television advertising in the US, the web campaign

features a ’send-a-kiss’ pop-up box which allows people to send an

e-mail kiss to their loved ones.

The kiss is a huge puckered lips graphic and you choose from a menu of

simple messages to go with it - such as ’I love you’. Appropriate

alternatives are added for special events like Valentine’s Day and

Mother’s Day.

The campaign has achieved a 30 per cent ’click within’ rate - that is,

almost a third of all people who see the box investigate further and

two-thirds of them have actually sent a kiss. This is a huge success


Banner advertising commonly scores a 1 or 2 per cent conversion. But

send-a-kiss isn’t a banner ad, nor is it an interstitial.

P&G has never made a secret of its intention to embrace the web and in

August was host to the Fast Forward summit of like-minded fmcg

advertisers including Coca-Cola, Sears, Unilever and Kraft Foods. One of

the main themes to emerge was a now familiar P&G mantra: the belief that

current web advertising models - for which read banners- are


This view was reinforced a few weeks back at the Jupiter Consumer Online

Forum when Frederic Colas, P&G’s director of interactive marketing,

stated: ’We will reinvent our brands and see what can be done on the web

that cannot be done anywhere else. We see the potential lies in

advertising. However, banners are not the answer - people ignore


Further confirmation that P&G is seeking to move beyond banners

coincided with the news that it is rethinking the way it structures its

sites. Previously, the emphasis has been on individual sites for

individual brands: now, according to Colas, it will seek to create

virtual communities targeted at specific demographics, such as

teenagers, housewives and older women.

It’s likely that this activity will be co-ordinated in Europe by Euro

RSCG and specialist agencies.

Under this regrouping, brands could be presented according to the needs

and concerns of these discrete groups, offering information and

attempting to create dialogue. For instance, on a teenager site,

sanitary protection brands might be presented in an environment where

contraception is addressed.

For older women, the same brand might be presented in a context where

the menopause was the main subject.

But despite this activity, it’s clear P&G remains focused on the web’s

potential to grow beyond a direct marketing tool and become a mass

medium on which it can run branded advertising. In fact, Denis

Beausejour, the worldwide advertising vice-president of P&G, has gone on

record stating that advertisers and advertising will actually play a key

role in realising that potential.

And the biggest hurdle is the inadequacy of current advertising


Current thinking at P&G centres on what it calls ’the two Rs - richness

and rewards’. Web advertising must be rich enough to compel consumers to

engage with the ad and must reward them when they do so. And rewards

don’t have to be material, as Scope’s send-a-kiss campaign shows.

Banner advertising doesn’t deliver on either R. The penalty for clicking

on a banner ad is that you disappear off on to another site,

interrupting the flow of what you’re doing. And as for richness - even

if it’s animated, even if it has sound, a banner is still basically a

coloured rectangle.

So where does the future lie? P&G revealed recently that it also now

believes inerstitials are ’too intrusive’ to have much of a future. The

pop-up boxes currently favoured by P&G allow you to stay on the host

site - but no-one really believes they will be the last word. The search


Surely the only certainty is the demise of banners? In the second

quarter of this year, P&G in the US spent dollars 3 million on internet

advertising with 80 per cent on solutions beyond the banner - not just

pop-ups but other devices like side-bars. Yet surveys of the top 50 web

advertisers tend to show that 90 per cent still believe banners have a

long-term future.

Do they? Bant Breen, the digital communications director at Leo Burnett,

points out that banners still have their merits - and the form is

continuing to evolve. ’People are looking at them more from a direct

marketing model and not from a traffic-driving perspective. It’s about

getting information about the consumer. We’re seeing a lot of software

emerging that manages banners online and gives a breakdown of who’s

using them.’

And after all, not everyone shares P&G’s particular concerns. Jane

Ostler, the managing partner of MindShare Digital, states: ’Banners will

evolve into other things. Not so long ago, they didn’t have animation or

sound. They will carry on changing. They are not just for advertisers at

the business-to-business end of the spectrum.’

But many commentators believe that banners will merely evolve to the

extent that they aren’t really banners any more. Don’t bet against P&G

being right - after all, the company has a track record not so much of

predicting the future but inventing it. As Beausejour is fond of

pointing out, P&G’s determination to get the advertising right was the

making firstly of radio and then of television. When it comes to

advertising, what P&G thinks today the rest of the world tends to

believe tomorrow.

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