Late last week, my Foolish colleague Seth Jayson drew my attention to a new section of Yahoo!'s (Nasdaq: YHOO ) site. The page, called "Capessa," is aimed at women and nestled into Yahoo! Health. After a few jokes about whether it's inspiring or not (and where the heck a name like "Capessa" came from), I saw there was a bit more than immediately met the eye.
As cynical as I might be at times, I did find some of the women's stories inspiring. However, what I found most interesting was the small print at the bottom of the page attributing the content to Procter & Gamble (NYSE: PG ) . Several email exchanges with Procter & Gamble's media relations department over the course of Friday and Monday morning seemed to imply that the project wasn't well known at the company, since my first contact admitted not being aware of Capessa. Then, on Monday, by the time I got the name of someone familiar with the site, the company had already issued a press release about Capessa. It certainly was an interesting chain of events.
Capessa (a variation on the Latin word "capesso," which means "to strive to reach a place") is an online community for women developed by Procter & Gamble and ZiZo Group for Yahoo!. It will feature "consumer generated" content: women's inspirational stories and video clips, as well as discussions on topics such as parenting, pregnancy, weight loss, careers, and so forth. The site also features a blog where a Capessa editor posts on particular topics and readers can comment with their own opinions and views.
Honestly, my first thought was of stealthy, hired "leaners" to evangelize products or overt product placement, but there were none to be found. A Wall Street Journal article about Procter & Gamble's current push into these areas said that Yahoo! didn't want Capessa to be over-commercialized. Any Procter & Gamble advertising will be subtle -- such as linking to tips from Procter & Gamble experts or offering a Procter & Gamble newsletter. (I did notice that a video clip included an ad for Pantene before the programming began.)
Speaking of my cynicism problem, I double checked with my Procter & Gamble contact to make sure that the women featured in the stories are not paid actresses -- they are indeed just regular women who want to tell their stories.
Basically, Capessa is meant to be an online focus group, where Procter & Gamble can find out women's likes, dislikes, and interests. And while Procter & Gamble has been scrutinized for past word-of-mouth marketing campaign networks like Vocalpoint and Tremor, Capessa did include disclosure. With signs of advertising disruption these days, some companies have tried some covert tactics that backfired, such as Wal-Mart's (NYSE: WMT ) fake travel blog or Sony's (NYSE: SNE ) fake PS3 blog.
It'll be interesting to watch how such initiatives will work for big advertisers like Procter & Gamble, and how consumers react. After all, some people are uncomfortable that the line between editorial and advertising content easily blurs on the Web. And of course, it always pays to examine that fine print. When it comes to sites like Capessa, it's always nice to know where the message is coming from.
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Yahoo! is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation. Wal-Mart is a Motley Fool Inside Value selection.
Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned.