Posts Tagged ‘Procter & Gamble’

Old Spice Ad Positively Reeks

January 7th, 2014

Oh, for the good old days when Procter & Gamble made incredibly boring, incredibly effective ads!  If this latest debacle from Old Spice is any indication of the quality of the decision-making going on at P&G these days, this might be a good time to short the stock.

(Legal disclaimer:  I’m far from a investment expert, but I do know horrendous advertising when I see it. . . and, trust me, this ad is horrendous.)

For starters, this ad is about as visually appealing as the head-rotating, green vomit-spewing scene in “The Exorcist.”  Secondly, the ad makes a big swing-and-a-miss at humor.  I realize the ad isn’t targeting 58-year-olds (although I’d be shocked if anyone under 58 has ever used Old Spice), but I can’t imagine that any reasonably conscious person of any age would find this ad funny.  Compared to the moms in  this spot, Mr. Whipple was freaking hysterical–the equivalent of Louis C.K., Chris Rock and Jon Stewart rolled into one.

Worse yet, the spot never shows the product being applied, so if you have the misfortune of gazing upon this spot and the good fortune to not be able to hear the audio, you’ll likely have no clue as to what the hell is being advertised.  While no doubt millions of people will recall having seen this commercial at least once (twice if you count when it replays in their mind in the form of a 2:00 am nightmare), I suspect that very few will ever know that Old Spice was the product advertised.

Which, come to think of it, may be the closest thing to a silver lining that this dark, disturbing cloud has for the company that once was considered the world’s smartest consumer products marketer.

The Dawn of a Brilliant Idea

June 21st, 2010

It turns out that one good thing can be associated with the otherwise disastrous BP oil spill:  a brilliant TV commercial by Dawn dish detergent.  What Procter & Gamble has pulled off is truly amazing:  they’ve leveraged a national disaster, reinforced their brand’s reason-for-being, and done so in a way that doesn’t feel the least bit exploitative. On the contrary, it feels downright altruistic.

Since its inception, Dawn’s primary benefit has always been its ability to cut through grease, and in recent years its advertising has pushed gentleness as a secondary benefit.  What better way to illustrate this “tough on grease yet gentle” positioning than showing Dawn being used to remove oil from ducklings and baby otters?  And what better–and more timely–way to support a worthy cause than to donate proceeds from Dawn’s sales to cleaning up the gulf?

I must admit that the luster of this ad diminished slightly when I learned that it’s been running off-and-on for almost a year; in other words, it wasn’t created as a result of the BP oil spill.  It turns out that Dawn has been used to clean endangered wildlife following other less catastrophic and less publicized oil spills.  Still, I think it took courage for P&G to run this commercial now, given the risk that some people would charge them with greedily capitalizing on the gulf’s misfortunes.  And had this commercial been created will less sophistication, less warmth or less sensitivity, it could easily have come across badly.  This clearly was not the case, however, and the decision-makers at P&G were able to recognize this spot as the masterful piece of communication that it is.

I can’t remember when I’ve seen a marketing initiative that makes you feel so good about a brand and its parent company while simultaneously powering home its unique selling proposition.  I guess it just never dawned on me that such a thing was possible.

New Charmin Campaign a Wipeout

March 6th, 2010

Oh, for the days when Charmin‘s advertising consisted of dear old Mr. Whipple pleading with grocery store shoppers, “Please don’t squeeze the Charmin!” For the past year or so, Procter & Gamble’s marketing antics have surely had Dick Wilson, the actor who played this lovable character (as well as Darrin and Samantha’s neighbor in “Bewitched”), rolling over in his grave. They’ve certainly had me retching on my sofa.

First, about a year ago we were subjected to a TV ad promising that with Charmin you’ll have “fewer pieces left behind.” To make sure that we could grasp the concept, the ad showed an animated mama bear literally wiping pieces off of her baby bear’s behind. Recently, the marketing mavens in P&G’s Cincinnati headquarters have developed (or at least green-lighted) the theme “Enjoy the Go!”, which surely has the parody commercial writers at Saturday Night Live asking themselves, “Why didn’t we think of that!” The ridiculous phrase is not only featured in their latest TV ad (which I haven’t been able to locate online yet), it was the theme of a public relations event in New York City over the holidays. Among other things, this event encouraged people to “Do the Potty Dance.” As SNL‘s Seth Meyers would say, “Really?”

I realize that the world is changing at a rapid pace, but I apparently missed out on this “Defecation Celebration” trend. If Charmin has its way, “Have a nice day!” will be replaced in our vernacular with “Have a nice poop!”

Procter & Gamble, which essentially invented the concept of brand management, is perhaps the most respected marketing company in the world. They’re also probably the most research-oriented marketing company in the world, which suggests that consumer research must have led them to conclude that America was ready for this rather graphic and even celebratory talk about the joys of using toilet paper. On the other hand, consumer research also led Ford and Coca Cola to believe that America was ready for the Edsel and New Coke. Sometimes you have to ignore the research and defer to your judgment.

I do have to give the normally risk-averse P&G credit for having the courage to take a bold step, and I suspect that this campaign has been the subject of great debate in Cincinnati. However, I have a hard time believing that this campaign is not turning more people off than on. Niche brands can afford to do things that offend a lot of people as long as they’re appealing to a meaningful minority, but mass brands like Charmin often have more to lose than to gain by employing controversial tactics. For this reason, I have to question P&G’s judgment in blessing this campaign.

So until I see evidence that this campaign is having a positive impact, I have no choice but to assign this campaign a rating of Floor Number Two.

When the Going Gets Tough…the Smart Raise Prices!

February 23rd, 2009

Recently Procter & Gamble announced that its response to the weakening economy would be to increase its prices and use its marketing efforts to persuade consumers that its products are a superior value despite the premiums they charge. In other words, P&G–the company that invented the concept of brand management–has decided that our economic woes are no excuse to panic and abandon the long-held value-added marketing strategy that made the company one of the most successful businesses on the planet.

As someone who used to compete against P&G, I have always had tremendous respect for the rigor and consistency of their strategic thinking. (Their creativity sometimes leaves something to be desired, however, but their huge budgets allow them to compensate for that shortcoming.) While their decision to stick to their guns is thus hardly surprising, it is nonetheless refreshing and admirable–particularly when institutions like Saks Fifth Avenue are indulging in marketing myopia and slashing prices left and right.

Early in my career, I was in a meeting in which someone suggested cutting prices in order to stimulate our sales. I’ll never forget the response from the senior manager in the room: “Any business you get because of price you’ll eventually lose because of price.” He directed us to come up with ideas that would increase revenue by adding value rather than subtracting price. And we did.

Perhaps his direction–and P&G’s decision–are not particularly profound, but in an environment in which so many once-esteemed companies are taking the easy way out and abandoning the principles that built their brands, it’s encouraging to see a company respond to a tough market by demonstrating the courage of its convictions.