Old El Paso gets steamy with online soap

General Mills is taking more risks in the digital realm and they're starting big with a new soap opera launching next week on CTV.ca. It features Old El Paso spokesperson Roberto, as well as a rabble-rousing new character - you.

Soap operas are an irresistible vice for millions of people around the world, and General Mills Canada is hoping that quality will transfer to their new viral campaign for Old El Paso. Starting Feb. 11, several vignettes of a dramatic Spanish family will be housed on CTV.ca, while consumers can get insert their friends into the saga by uploading their picture via Facebook.

It’s the one of the first viral campaigns from General Mills, which tends to launch successful – but safe – marketing campaigns for its brands, says Dale Storey, VP marketing, General Mills Canada. ‘It’s really in the last 12 months where we’ve gotten serious about multimedia convergence using digital communications,’ he says. Last year they jumped from spending 1 to 2% on digital media, to about 7%, he says.

With creative and media handled by Cossette, the objective of the soap operas is to get the ‘light and lapse users to reconsider the brand,’ says Storey. A link to the campaign site will be housed on the CTV.ca homepage, and the network will arrange banner advertisements to different online sites promoting the videos. The strategy is to help people break their dinner routine, and take a fun, three-minute break.

‘One of the things we’re trying to do is be more experimental,’ says Storey. ‘A viral campaign within digital is far less certain because it really does depend on making it extremely entertaining.’

Currently, Old El Paso TV commercials feature a comical character, Roberto, who will also star in the soaps and will become a spokesperson for the brand. The character is an attempt to build advertising equity and consistency for the brand that can work in all platforms, whether it be print, TV or online.

‘We’re trying to create a long-standing advertising campaign as opposed to a series of one-off communication executions,’ says Storey.

Read more about General Mills Canada’s marketing strategy in the February 2010 issue of strategy, now available online.