Starting July 25, Canada’s W Network ran a week-long campaign that encouraged women to re-examine conventional notions of beauty. The initiative was sponsored by Unilever’s Dove brand, which began a similar ‘Campaign for Real Beauty’ early last year as part of its advertising strategy for a new range of cosmetics. For the initiative, the womens’ specialty service produced a series of 5 x 30-second vignettes in which W’s female hosts shared their personal thoughts on what constitutes real beauty. But a one-hour documentary that aired at 8 p.m. on July 30, titled Beauty Quest (it follows a female fashion photographer as she searches for an image that personifies actual beauty), was the centerpiece and as such was promoted by spots carrying a ‘brought to you by’ tag from Dove. ‘I’ve never felt so well supported in terms of publicity in my life,’ says Leanna Crouch, CEO and exec producer of Telefactory, the Toronto-based prodco responsible for Beauty Quest.
It was Telefactory that initiated the deal. Inspired by a photography exhibit Dove commissioned for its ‘Real Beauty’ campaign (but didn’t demand editorial control over), Crouch approached Unilever about taking the concept a step further. Once they expressed interest, she brought the doc idea to W, with whom she’d worked before, and whose audience is women aged 18 to 54. ‘What the producer did very well is research,’ says Joanna Webb, W’s VP of programming. ‘They put us together with an initiative they knew was key to the client.’ She also notes, ‘We’re looking more for series, so it was absolutely more attractive to have one of our key partners involved in the project.’
The deal was ultimately signed between the broadcaster and Unilever, at which point Telefactory stepped back to make the film, which W supported with a CDN$300,000 (US$246,000) budget. ‘[Broadcasters] want to initiate and control the sponsorship component,’ says Crouch. ‘But independent producers, in order to survive, have to find new and innovative ways of getting money that still work within the system, but where we don’t become a propaganda shop.’ Starting with the creative is key, says Webb, who confirms that W prefers to approach a client together with a prodco.
Erin Iles, the Dove masterbrand marketing manager for Unilever, says the success of the partnership won’t be measured by the program’s ratings. ‘We want to see lots of hits to our website promoting the [photo] tour and hopefully boosts in visits. That’s the sort of thing we hope to get out of it.’ Beauty Quest will be dstributed at MIPCOM by Montreal’s Galafilm, which is a partner in Telefactory.