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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