Mark Duffy has written the Copyranter blog for 10 years and is a freelancing copywriter with 20-plus years of experience. His hockey wrist shot is better than yours.
Toilet paper advertising peaked with Mr. Whipple, one of the most successful icons in ad history who starred in hundreds of commercials from the mid-1960s to the 1980s. Never has the benefit of “softness” been better executed, and the campaign sold, well, a crap-ton of Charmin for P&G.
Dick Wilson (who was paid $300,000 a year according to Wikipedia), the actor who played Mr. Whipple, died in 2001. That was about the time that Charmin and its ad agency Publicis introduced the Defecating Bear family. This was a bad idea. (Ellen DeGeneres famously dubbed them “the overshare bears.”)
The ursine poopers have starred in many rather disturbing commercials since then, including one where the daughter admits to reading Kafka on the crapper.
But the strangest one was this commercial featuring baby bear with TP pieces stuck to his hairy derrière:
Have you — or anyone you know — been overwhelmed by the sheer volume of toilet paper scraps stuck to your backside? Me neither. What’s going on there? Can’t be just his bristly fur, right? Some misguided wiping technique, maybe?
Competitor Cottonelle actually got the spot pulled for being “misleading” after complaining to the Better Business Bureau that the portrayal of Charmin-using bear’s experience was unrealistic. Amazing.
Charmin has proven to be much more popular and less oversharing on its “Tweets From The Seat” Twitter account.
Quilted Northern, 2014
This Quilted Northern spot just plain doesn’t make a lick of sense: an anthropomorphized “French” roll of TP that says it’s “not for wiping”? This is toilet paper that would make adman-turned-artist René Magritte proud. (Suggested tagline: “This is not a wipe.”)
Also last year, Quilted Northern and its agency Moxie got some young girls together to talk about … where their excreta goes when they flush:
I’m guessing this was partially unscripted, but why do I want to watch kids discussing waste destinations? (The sea! You win!) This isn’t an environmental PSA, and it sure as, er, shit doesn’t sell Quilted Northern.
Back to Cottonelle. Its latest campaign (agency: Trisect) commanded you to go commando.
These ads get a little too far into my pants for comfort. Cottonelle is obviously quite proud of its proprietary CleanRipple® texture technology that it claims “cleans better.” Yeah, well, I speak from personal experience when I say I don’t need no stinking “ripples.”
But the biggest butt-scratcher so far is this Angel Soft spot released in mid-November.
Angel Soft, 2015
Titled “Grander Parents,” it’s such a touching ad! For grandparents! Where can I buy these exceptional grandparents? Oh wait, what did that clunky copy line say?
“Just when you were ready to be soft, you found your strong side too.”
Uh, Deutsch (the responsible agency): You’re metaphorically saying that Angel Soft is these grandparents? Well, they are senior citizens, so their skin has lots of ripples. And I bet they’re not always so “soft” with each other. They’re probably — occasionally — asswipes, yes? Aren’t we all? OK, I think I get the tenuous connection.
Here’s a better ad; you can have it for free: Imagine the industrial sandpaper TP the girl’s incarcerated father is using right now. Send one of the Koch brothers (Koch Industries is the parent company of Angel Soft) to his prison, right to his cell, with a case of Angel Soft, tell the man “stay strong,” pat him on the shoulder, and walk out. Oh, you’ll see tears of joy.
Mr. Whipple, a nation turns its lonely eyes to you.