By now, I assume most of you have heard about the new Playtex print campaign for its Fresh & Sexy wipes, courtesy of Grey, New York. If you haven't seen the campaign in its entirely, view it here. Go ahead, I'll wait. Try not to view it while you're eating. Or breathing.
A friend forwarded the campaign to me with the disclaimer "I am not making this up." I think I may have blacked out when I first saw it. But once I came to, I promptly posted it to the 3% Facebook page.
The comments began percolating like microwave popcorn. There was dismay that a female CD was behind such drivel (Elaine McCormick of Grey). Words like "floored," "disappointed," "dismay," and "mess" showed up. And some thoughtful comments cropped up from Marti Barletta, a marketing-to-women expert we revere, revealing that she takes more offense from the recent breast cancer ad starring scantily clad men.
(Also not a good indicator when your campaign is deemed "not as offensive as _____________").
So here, after weighing and measuring all the comments, is my take on why this campaign is really, truly awful.
Heads should roll.
The copywriter should turn in his MacBook Pro... forever.
And the client should make a public apology to Playtex shareholders. That's how bad this is.
Seven reasons why, starting with the small offenses and moving to the bigger ones:
1) It's lazy
I imagine a creative team gathering together and being asked to yell out every term for male and female anatomy. Someone whiteboarded it and -- voila -- insta-headlines. Just add water. Formulaic, even. The clean ________ gets more _________.
2) It's see and say
Beaver. Door knob. Woodpecker. Get on it, art buyer! The reader's mind isn't enlisted to fill in any blanks, to consider any nuance, to participate at all. This is the stuff of Portfolio 101, where students have to "unlearn" what advertising is -- rhymes, cliches, turns of phrase -- and learn the much, much harder skill of elevating a consumer truth into something compelling and worthy of a conversation.
3) It's too close to the creative brief...and the wrong creative brief at that
My first CD used to sometimes admonish us: "Careful -- your creative brief is showing."
These aren't even headlines -- they're PG-13 rated versions of USPs. "If you are clean, you will have more sex" suddenly becomes "A clean beaver gets more wood." But I question whether the creative brief said exactly that, or something different. Did women really tell Playtex they wanted MORE sex, or did they instead reveal what I suspect was closer to this: "I want to feel more sexual, if only I could feel more confident." That's a very different expressed need than simply wanting "more sex." (Someone else commented on our FB post, "Um...since when have women ever had trouble getting laid?")
4) It's not even technically accurate
The clean beaver does NOT get more wood. The matted, filthy, scrappy, don't-give-a-shit beaver gets more wood. The clean beaver starves and is voted off the island.
The polished knob does NOT get more turns. If I'm going into a room, I'm going into a room, knob be damned.
5) It preys on women's insecurities
That's the message of this campaign. And the only way to become worthy is to buy this product.
This is lowest-common denominator thinking. Brought to you by the folks who tell you your thighs are too jiggly, your breath not fresh, your legs too stubbly, your boobs too saggy, your teeth too yellow...
6) It invites men into the self-loathing-a-thon and that ain't progress
Just because Playtex made an equally offensive campaign for men doesn't make it okay. It makes it doubly offensive.
7) It ignores Cindy Gallop's omen that "the future is about the female gaze"
For anyone who had the good fortune to hear Cindy Gallop's keynote speech at The 3% Conference, a key takeaway was this: the future belongs to those who show women through a female lens. We are shifting away from sole depictions of women as men see them and towards a world of work that celebrates who women really are and how they see themselves. This campaign fails here. Men do the picking and the tapping.
But other than these 7 things... I love it!!!!!
So... what would I have done differently?
I would have crafted a long copy ad that talked directly to women, acknowledged their fears, reassured them of their worth, and gave them permission to be great.
Here's how it might sound:
You wonder sometimes.
Am I in the mood?
Maybe yes. Maybe no.
Either of which are okay.
But if what's stopping you
is the itty-bitty-shitty committee
in your mind, tell them to hush.
You are beautiful. Worthy.
And you smell just as nature intended.
And if that lingering doubt doesn't fade,
quiet it however you can.
And get on with the joyful, happy act of getting it on.
See the difference?
What do all of YOU think?