Thursday, July 24, 2008

Non-Commercial Commercials

What if the advertising techniques of Madison Avenue could be used to promote social changes rather than increasing the sales of corporate products?

Febreze went from a low selling product to clean up smelly clothes to a best seller with a new marketing scheme:

The researchers at P.& G. realized that these types of findings had enormous implications for selling Febreze. Because bad smells occurred too infrequently for a Febreze habit to form, marketers started looking for more regular cues on which they could capitalize.

The perfect cue, they eventually realized, was the act of cleaning a room, something studies showed their target audience did almost daily. P.& G. produced commercials showing women spraying Febreze on a perfectly made bed and spritzing freshly laundered clothing. The product’s imagery was revamped to incorporate open windows and gusts of fresh wind — an airing that is part of the physical and emotional cleaning ritual.

“We learned from consumer interviews that there was an opportunity to cue the clean smell of Febreze to a clean room,” Dr. Berning said. “We positioned it as the finishing touch to a mundane chore. It’s the icing that shows you did a good job.”

Today, Febreze is one of P.& G.’s greatest successes. Customers habitually spray tidied living rooms, clean kitchens, loads of fresh laundry and, according to one of the most recent commercials, spotless minivans. In the most recent fiscal year, consumers in North America alone spent $650 million buying Febreze, according to the company.
Val Curtis decided to use these same marketing techniques to get Ghanaians to use soap after going to the bathroom and before eating.
Their solution was ads showing mothers and children walking out of bathrooms with a glowing purple pigment on their hands that contaminated everything they touched.

The commercials, which began running in 2003, didn’t really sell soap use. Rather, they sold disgust. Soap was almost an afterthought — in one 55-second television commercial, actual soapy hand washing was shown only for 4 seconds. But the message was clear: The toilet cues worries of contamination, and that disgust, in turn, cues soap.

“This was radically different from most public health campaigns,” said Beth Scott, an infectious-disease specialist who worked with Dr. Curtis on the Ghana campaign. “There was no mention of sickness. It just mentions the yuck factor. We learned how to do that from the marketing companies.”

The ads had their intended effect. By last year, Ghanaians surveyed by members of Dr. Curtis’s team reported a 13 percent increase in the use of soap after the toilet. Another measure showed even greater impact: reported soap use before eating went up 41 percent.
I think this is a very interesting application and I would like to see these techniques used more for social change. It would be great to see more "Non-Commercial" commercials on the television set. A successful marketing campaign for healthier eating and exercise would more than pay for itself with reduced medical bills.

I always wondered why if people thought that commercials for sugary cereals and snacks was the reason that young kids have bad eating habits and become obese, why not battle back with commercials for healthy food? Chiquita bananas had some advertisements, but I am hard pressed to think of any other adds for fruits or vegetables. Lets have commercials for healthy foods fight it out with the sugary snacks during kids cartoons. Or why not incorporate the pitch directly into cartoons like Popeye with his spinach?

via NY Times


Audacious Epigone said...

Tangentially, I wonder what percentage of the US population is Popeye-literate. I never much cared for the cartoon, but whenever something needs done requiring lifting (a neighbor asking if I'll help move a washer inside), I'll often say, "Sure, just let me grab a can of spinach and we'll get it done". Hardly anyone knows what I'm talking about, which makes me look like a bigger dork than I would've simply by referencing Popeye.

Fat Knowledge said...


I am with you. Kids these days just don't know the classics. I mean when you have to explain the Soup Nazi or shrinkage or raving anti-dentites or any other Seinfeld classic, I just don't know what hope we have for the next generation.

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