Unilever will eschew the TV screen and head to the web to launch a new ad campaign for the spray bottle version of I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter. While the brand may not initially seem an obvious candidate for such a viral marketing push, Unilever has chosen an advertising partner with a proven track record, and research suggests female consumers are particularly receptive to viral marketing.

According to The New York Times, a cast of animated, refrigerator-dwelling characters play out soap opera-spoofing scenes in four ‘episodes’ appearing solely on the web. In each scene of the “Sprays of Her Life” series, the ads’ heroine, Spraychel, is pitted against her rival, Buttricia. A Unilever spokesman noted that “classical advertising” is decreasingly effective and said the company hopes the innovation of the ‘webisodes’ will help them reach consumers more efficiently.

Campaign creator Byte Interactive will target women ages 35 and up with pitch emails for the ads. As with any viral campaign, the success of “Sprays of Her Life” depends on consumers sharing the link to the ads’ dedicated website through email.

With viral marketing, manufactures aim to build buzz by making consumers their willing product advocates. A recent Datamonitor survey found females are more likely to share opinions about CPG products than men, so a viral strategy makes sense in this respect. Furthermore, the use of humour and simplicity in this campaign are vital elements in viral marketing.

Byte Interactive has a proven track record in viral marketing. Its award-winning campaign for Nestle Waters incorporated brand elements into an addictive online game, thus successfully increasing brand awareness.

Unilever’s quirky approach to the ad campaign was also a wise choice given an existing butter product is not an ideal candidate for viral marketing. Exciting, innovative or premium products are more likely to generate consumer buzz. However, while I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter lacks any such differentiating qualities, it is the top selling product in the spreads, margarines and butter blends category, giving it the advantage of brand familiarity, also an important factor in viral marketing success.

If Unilever’s non-traditional approach works, women will soon be sharing the memory of the more melodramatic soap operas with their friends, and in the process inadvertently spreading the gospel of I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter.

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