Great Advertising (From An Unexpected Brand)

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Have you seen this ad?

When was the last time you paid attention to a commercial about toilet paper? Or even cared to?

Kimberly-Clark‘s Cottonelle brand (not a client) has come out with dispenser packaging for its Fresh Care Flushable Dry Wipes product. Yes, a moist and flushable toilet paper. Innovative product? Maybe. Stunning Cannes-worthy advertising? Nope. But it’s short. It’s to the point. It catches your attention. It makes you smile. But, more importantly, it makes you ask yourself a bigger question: why do we wipe the way that we do and doesn’t this make much more sense?

The butt of the joke.

In marketing, we tend to focus too much on the humor or shock tactics to drive attention. This simple (and effective) ad works on many levels: it clearly explains the product in a way that makes us smile and relate to it. It provokes us to think about our current habits. It creates a strong case for a consumer trial the next time we’re wandering down the toilet paper aisle. It doesn’t need to be flashy. It needs to be informative.

Too much time.

If I’m going to be honest, even blogging about this ad kills my point, because I’m giving this too much attention and time. Great advertising acts as an engine to transmit brand information. In a world of Facebook and Twitter many will argue that you need hashtags, content marketing  and a bunch of followers to get people buzzing about this product. For my dollar, this makes much more sense: tell people about it, get them to smile, get them to recognize a new behavior, and get them to consider a trial.

That reminds me.

One of my current business partners used to have a sign on his wall. It read: "Be brilliant. Be brief. Be gone." It’s a lesson that advertisers, presenters, brands and more could learn from. Regardless of the product, production, casting or originality of the idea, by my estimates, Cottonelle nailed this execution. It’s also a reminder that not everything has to be jaw dropping… it just has to make the strategy and insight come to life in a way that captures the consumer’s very valuable attention.

Great advertising doesn’t always look like the way we typically define great advertising.


  1. Wow! You are way off base on this one Mitch. Sorry. What is the insight that drove the strategy? That people desire a moist bum wipe? This is yet another example of a brand trying to create desire through advertising. It won’t work. It never does. Great advertising acts as an engine to transmit information that people are “looking for.”

  2. This could be a good topic of debate on the podcast, Tom. Providing a cleaver and informative ad for a product that people don’t know thet they need is not easy. People didn’t know that they desired an iPod or a Swiffer or Glad bags or… (the list goes on). Whether the product sells or not, I think they did a great job of bringing it to market in a segment that is cluttered and has low-interest.

  3. You know, I do get tired of the “you wouldn’t do x, so why do y?” format. It’s a bit lazy. Usually they are absurd connections though. This one is pretty direct.
    But I don’t really care – I just want the moist bum wipes! The ad could have just said – Moist bum wipes now available, and I’d be sold! The bidet’s been around since the 17th century – wet works!

  4. Mitch, I agree with you on this one. Coming from the brand side my instincts would be that this product was developed in response to an insight that people are not satisfied with the current paper products. Just look at the number of wipe products (hand included) wet, dry and otherwise that have entered the category, especially after SARS.
    In a basically population growth driven category, brands need to innovate around consumers willingness to “trade up” to a better experience. Cottenelle should be commended in attempting to deliver that premium experience.
    I also agree that consumers generally, don’t really know what they want. They usually want things to be better. In a category (ketchup) that I lived in for a decade, I can tell you that consumers did want a better pouring experience. However, runny ketchup was not the answer. So Heinz (former employer, former client) went about and innovated packaging from wide mouth bottles, to squeeze to upside down containers. The pouring experience improved with every iteration.
    So for those who think that consumers know what innovation they want next we might have had a butter knife attached to every glass bottle of ketchup (they loved the iconic glass bottles) as sticking a knife in the opening was a common method of removing the stubborn and lovingly thick Heinz ketchup.
    As for Cottonelle, they have an engaging website (the ecommerce piece is somewhat lacking) and this should be campaign that social media can get behind :).

  5. I beg to disagree. I this its a mediocre ad which tries to prove its point by comparing apples to oranges and somehow at the end putting across a point which in a nutshell says “dude..I’ve got nothing to say..just enjoy the supposedly funny commercial and buy a wet tissue to wipe your butt”. Not only I pity those (non) volunteers who had to take a waterless shampoo ritual for the sake this clueless ad, I also did not find it funny at all. Yes, I laughed, but not ‘with’ it, I laughed ‘at’ it. We dont shampoo our head without water, but do we shampoo our butts? What kind of correlation is that? Or does this product exist to serve a customer-base who shampoo their butt? I mean, in which dimension of the Marketing universe does it make sense is beyond me.
    Anyways, it surely is not offensive to any race or religion, it surely brings the main product into center at the end without making much fuss and also makes the benefit of the ad clear. By text book standards, it doesnt seem to make any errors, but it surely is not an outstanding ad according to me. For me it passes with 2nd class. But having said all this (and probably in too harsh terms), I do not possess a professional degree from a Ivy league-like college in Marketing nor do I have any hands-on experience in advertisement. Just sharing my views, apologies if I was too harsh or unprofessional. I really admire your writing and felt kind of disappointed when I found an article which probably doesnt resonate with my thinking.

  6. That’s great, I hadn’t seen this commercial. I’m of the belief why do toilet paper companies have commercials? Are people not going to buy toilet paper?

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