Scrunch, fold or cringe?

by Tom Albrighton 7 February 2013 Branding, Copywriting, Copywriting reviews

As you may have already seen, Andrex have launched a new campaign based around the slogan ‘scrunch or fold?’ The strategy is to get people thinking about the way they use toilet paper, and visiting the Andrex website to cast their vote either way. You can view the ad below (and if you don’t like it, you’ll probably enjoy the majestic angry takedown at VICE.)

Traditional or ‘interruptive’ advertising works by issuing a loud ‘hey you!’ to the audience. Having got their attention, it then attempts to persuade them to try a particular product. The basic logic is ‘Hey! This is great. Buy it!’

A strong premise gives interruptive ads a licence to talk about the product they’re promoting. The headline or opening writes a cheque that is then cashed by the benefits of the product, making the call to action seem like a logical conclusion.

Andrex’s traditional approach was very much along these lines. The ‘hey you!’ was the puppy, which was almost certainly created to appeal to female shoppers. The ‘this is great’ was ‘soft, strong and very, very long’, which managed to cram in three benefits by virtue of being so poetic. And the ‘buy it!’ just didn’t need to be said after that – or it was said via discounts and offers at the retailer. Job done.

No conversation

Now, these days the received wisdom is that Everything Has Changed. Interruption doesn’t work, so we’re not allowed to tell people how good the product is any more. Instead, we have to get them to have a ‘conversation’ around it themselves. And that’s what this campaign is all about. Instead of telling people to buy the product, it cajoles them to talk about it. To engage with the brand, in the parlance of our times.

Unfortunately for Andrex, no-one really talks that much about toilet paper – or, indeed, any other consumer product, for most of the time. Apart from the odd friendly recommendation or trivial ‘my lunch’ tweet, FMCGs are bought and used without comment. And toilet paper, by its nature, is more likely than most to be unremarked on.

So Andrex’s strategy is to move the focus from the product itself to the experience of using it. That sounds good in principle, and it’s worked for many other products. The most obvious comparator is Marmite, with their ‘love it or hate it’ campaign. But in this case, no-one wants to talk about the experience either.

Lack of recognition

Generally, people don’t talk about their arsewipe style because they don’t think about it. They don’t want to think about it. They just want to get it over with and do something else. And that’s why this campaign lacks the (cough) ring of truth. The fundamental problem is lack of recognition; the conversation being promoted feels forced and artificial, not intriguing and natural. We’re not a ‘nation divided’, as Andrex’s copy hopefully claims, because the scrunch-or-fold debate is just Not A Thing.

People could get equal joy from both praising Marmite and hating on it. Everyone’s tried the product, and everyone has an opinion. The recognition factor was pretty much 100%, and the social value was high. In contrast, no-one wants to chat about cleansing their anus (let alone anyone else doing the same thing) in any sort of social space (let alone with strangers via a Twitter hashtag). I mean, if I’d described my own technique, even in the context of this post, what would you think?

Lowering the tone

As Sell! Sell! have noted in their blog, Andrex is a very strong brand with a proud heritage and an excellent product. Like Apple, it really doesn’t need to go grubbing around for social-media action. And it should emulate Apple by not bothering, and selling the product instead.

What I also find sad is the implied lack of belief in the product and the brand. By neglecting actual benefits, and by debasing the tone of voice so dramatically, the campaign comes across and defensive and unsure – in spite of the bravura execution. This is one attempt at engagement that ends up looking pretty vacant.

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  • Jools

    Great article, as ever, Tom. But I wonder if Andrex have had to move along from their charming ‘interruptive’ promos because their particular FMCG, whether scrunched, folded or wrapped around a puppy, is no longer soft, or strong, or very, very long. Evrything Has Indeed Changed.

  • Lucy Smith

    Reminds me of the ad for Carefree (I think) panty liners they had running in Australia and New Zealand, where a naked woman does a piece to camera about “vaginal discharge”.

    Reaction: predictable. Discussion about whether it was okay to directly name that body part in prime time TV, parents wringing their hands about what to tell their little dears when they asked for clarification, men going, ‘ewwww, gross’, and so forth.

    Personally, I didn’t feel it was a necessary discussion, and didn’t really think this was the vehicle for it anyway. Women have their preferred brands of these things and don’t normally switch if they can help it, however visible the advertising campaign. And I found it a bit weird that this lady was going on about how ‘self cleaning’ was a normal bodily function, but at the same time implying that it was something so disgusting you needed to buy panty liners.

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  • Jomfy

    This campaign from JWT London is not new. Sorbent (Australia’s toilet roll brand) did ‘Scrunch or Fold’ bigger and better back in 2006. See TV spot here:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3jkbSWd48lc

  • tomalbrighton

    Yes, I saw that and RTd it when somebody (you?) shared it on Twitter. I guess if it’s new to the audience, it’s new enough…

  • Sell! Sell!

    Good post, thanks for the mention Tom. The reality is, of course, that Everything Has Not In Fact Changed. It’s just gullible marketers being hoodwinked by the latest trend. Engagement Vs Interruption discussed a little here: http://sellsellblog.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/engagement-vs-interruption.html

  • Ross

    Spot on – I was thinking just the same thing when I saw the TV advert. Big failure for the Andrex marketing department and/or the agency they engaged. Someone independent of the campaign designers really should have done a bit of market research. I bet the designers provided both the concept and some faked market research to justify it.

  • hostile_17

    This may sound like an overreaction – but I am now not buying Andrex. I just don’t want to buy anything that (IMO) now seems so downmarket.

    I can just hear the marketers now talking about the “conversation” and it being “edgy” etc. It makes me cringe.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Matt-Sharper/100000807088310 Matt Sharper

    this is what happens when you follow trend everyone else is doing it so we should too YIKES

  • kat

    I see where the inspiration comes from but somehow I am not getting the same vibes probably because I don’t know the brand and given the Australian known sense of humour I find it more acceptable. Yet for Andrex it seems the activity is totally against their equity of fluffy and soft with that I find I agree totally

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  • http://twitter.com/Glenda_S Glenda Shawley

    It would be interesting to see what has happened to sales as a result of this campaign. I always buy Andrex and had missed the campaign but my daughter would not allow me to buy the Scrunch and Fold packs in the supermarket because she thought the campaign so tacky. Now I have seen the campaign I agree with her. Stick with the puppies on a roll Andrex.

  • http://twitter.com/copywritenow Phil Williams

    Thanks for another excellent article Tom. And spot on, a brand like Andrex should be building on its prestige not groveling for attention.

    I’d like to note that things went downhill for Andrex a long time ago when some genius thought it was a good idea to replace the Andrex puppy with a CGI dog. How did no one in the process of what must have been a rather expensive campaign step back and think that a computer generated puppy might not be cute in the same way that a real one is. It’s as though they didn’t even understand why their earlier ad campaigns worked.

  • http://www.abccopywriting.com/ Tom Albrighton

    For those interested in the success of this campaign, this article http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/6cf5549a-c230-11e2-8992-00144feab7de.html#axzz2X9u0R2JG says that sales increased 22%, although that does include sales promotions.