The marketing industry is all a buzz about branded content and Procter & Gamble's deep dive with "Crescent Heights".  Some think it is genius. Others are ripping it like Ad Rants.  Here is the skinny... P&G launched an online program called "Crescent Heights." The show features a recent college graduate named Ashley, who hails from Wisconsin and recently moved to Los Angeles to begin a career in public relations. The story focuses on Ashley's work life, love life and acclimation to being in a new city. Intertwined throughout the program is the connection to Tide, which serves as the sole sponsor/creator of "Crescent Heights." Advertisers have been creating funny and unique clips or commercials online, very few of those advertisers own a space online.  In order for a brand to do this you have to do more than produce a funny video. P&G has joined the ranks of Ice Breakers (Watch and Whoa), American Express (2006 Dish Program) and Sears (Extreme Home Makeover) with original programming.  What is really smart about this is a simple strategy that uses technology to blur the line.(Fuse the Blue and start a conversation).

I give P&G credit for trying to leverage online video to create something new and different. The company is credited with inventing the soap opera by sponsoring the "Ma Perkins' radio show and, later, "Guiding Light," so you would expect such an innovator to be one of the first to try to recreate that success in today's digital universe. As television consumption among young adults and children drastically declines, advertisers are trying to engage this audience where they are, which means the Web and eventually mobile. This is a first step by an advertiser to do just that outside of basic video advertising (pre-roll) and sponsorships on social networking Web sites.

I found the quality of the production to be relatively good.  My expereinbce with both Ice Breakers and American Express tells me that a lot of thought went into these segments and it is quite clear that professional production teams were involved.

Another thing to point out is that the show bleeds the brand. Take a moment and focus on how every aspect of the show relates to the product. Bright colors are used throughout, especially when it comes to the apparel of each character, but it wasn't excessive. The actual package of Tide was intertwined through at least three of the four segments I watched, but I wouldn't say its use was over-the-top or too advertorial.  It was access.  Large media companies need to wake up and smell the coffee.  Brands are now doing what you used to do. 

Tide has been so effective with its marketing, and I give them credit for trying something new when it comes to online video, I am not sure if this latest endeavor is going to achieve the desired results. I think the program is geared toward a slightly older audience, which is looking for relevant, entertaining content as well as they may be disappointed upon learning that Tide is the creator. Consumers can be skeptical and I think they will constantly be waiting to be "sold," taught a lesson about detergent or be given laundry tips. I also do not know who tunes in on a regular basis to follow the evolution of these characters.

I suspect we will see an increase in new ideas and developments from major advertisers, especially within the online video arena. I also know there is an opportunity to leverage video for more of these types of creations.  The key is good content. Then they need to generate broad awareness through distribution as well as preparing the content in away that continues the conversation. 

After watching "Crescent Heights," I realized that unlike Ice Breakers Watch and Whoa and American Express' 2006 The Dish program (which was programing that was contectually relevent)  Tide can expect significant perception challenges to overcome - but with the right storyline - anything can happen.

ON: Crescent Heights via @jpenabickley