Sunday, January 2, 2011

Charmin ad campaign

I studied advertising in college, especially television advertising. I've gone on to write copy and produce a few commercials over the years.

One of the most iconic ad campaigns of my youth was Procter & Gamble's "Don't Squeeze the Charmin" campaign featuring the funny grocery store manager Mr. Whipple portrayed by veteran actor Riccardo DiGuglielmo--better known by his easier to remember but oddly mundane-sounding screen credit Dick Wilson--from 1964 to 1985.

Here's an old Charmin ad that also features a pre-Mythbusters Adam Savage.

One of my favorite ad campaigns of the 2000s is also by P&G for their Charmin toilet paper brand. Featuring, of all things, BEARS! But not the scary kind that Stephen Colbert is always warning us about.

I remember when I first saw the ad and I thought, "Okay, low-tech cell animation. Cute cartoon bears. Whatever." Then I realized what the bears were doing and where and I thought, "Genius!" It's a play on the old joke that you tell whenever someone doubts the validity of what you just said, "Am I serious? Is the Pope Catholic? Does a bear shit in the woods?" The unspoken and obvious answer to both questions being, Yes! Oh, what I would have given to be in the pitch meeting when someone came up with that idea. It has a certain sophistication for being, essentially, a poop joke but it's completely apropos for a product such as Charmin toilet paper.

As of this writing, the ad campaign has been running since 2000 and isn't just on TV. I was playing an ad-supported game on my iPhone recently and was treated to a short commercial. I usually tap on the "skip" button on these but since it was one of my favorite campaigns, I went ahead and watched it. It featured P&G's "Enjoy the Go" campaign--started in 2009--in which they are inviting people to submit videos--don't get ahead of me, please!--to a YouTube channel explaining why Charmin helps them to "Enjoy the Go." There was also a "Go Nation" contest, a Facebook page, an iPhone app that can direct you to a Charmin approved public restroom--similar to George Costanza's iToilet app, I'm sure--and something that every ad campaign hopes for: celebrity endorsements.

Which reminds me that people will endorse just about anything as long as there's a check involved. Who were the celebrities tapped to endorse the "Enjoy the Go" campaign?

Jane Lynch and Kim Kardashian.

Don't get me wrong, I still love the ad campaign. It just goes to show you how a successful campaign--this is a $1 Billion a year brand--can go to some very weird places. Were it not for Charmin' I never would have pictured either Jane Lynch or Kim Kardashian going to the bathroom, though I'm sure others with strangers obsessions imagined that very thing a long time ago.

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