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An Ad Message That Really Stinks

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

I'm surprised there hasn't been more of an outcry about P&G's newest TV ad for Tide Laundry Detergent with Febreze -- the ad that targets moms with young babies.

I caught the ad twice last night -- during This Hour Has 22 Minutes. It bothered me enough that I dashed across the room to grab a pen and pad of paper so I could jot down some notes about the ad. I knew right away I wanted to blog about it. Having it air a second time was a bonus. I was able to jot down some additional notes. (I like to be thorough.)

Just in case you haven't seen the ad, here's a quick summary:

The ad starts out with the camera focusing on a young baby who is leaning over his or her mother's left shoulder. The music playing is "Be My Baby." Then the ad script begins. "It's the difference between smelling like a mom and smelling like a woman....After all, every mom is a woman, too."

The ad has clearly been running for a while -- according to Advertising Age and Business Week, the new campaign was launched in the spring), but it's either the first time I caught this ad or the first time I really paid attention.

The ad disturbs me for a couple of reasons:

  • It implies that new mothers have an odor problem -- a nasty, nasty message to be giving moms at a time when many women struggle with post-baby body image issues as it is. So not only do new moms have to worry about the difference between their pre-pregnancy shape and their postpartum shape: now new moms have to worry about post-baby body odor (P.B.B.O.), possibly caused by milk leakage, baby poop, or some other scent deemed undesirable by a Fortune 500 corporation. Apparently, new moms aren't supposed to carry this scent with them when they have that romantic interlude in between feedings. I can't decide whether this is a nasty attempt to play on the vulnerabilities of new moms or a flashback to those Aviance perfume ads of the 1970s. Maybe it's a bit of both.

  • The ad ignores the important research about scent and the important role in plays in maternal-infant bonding. Babies are comforted by their mothers' scent and wearing strong scents -- like detergent that has been infused with strong perfumes -- masks that scent (unless, of course, your natural odor resembles Febreze).

  • It overlooks the fact that some babies are sensitive to scents. (I'm not talking about skin sensitivities/allergies here. I'm talking about just being driven crazy by powerful odors, like some babies and young children are noise-sensitive.) I don't like overpowering odors -- like industrial-strength carpet cleaners. Can you imagine how frustrating it would be if you were a baby who didn't like powerful scents and your mom felt compelled to wear ultra-scented clothing because the marketers were telling her how stinky she was -- because she smelled like breastmilk or spitups? You'd be pretty mad -- maybe mad enough to scream in protest, if you were that baby. It's worth thinking about.

Advertising Age: Five Years in the Making, Tide Gets a New Ad Campaign
BusinessWeek.com: Detergent Can Be So Much More
Berkeley Parents Network: Laundering Baby Clothes
Baby Center: When Can I Start Washing My Baby's Clothes in Regular Detergent?
DrGreene.com: Pine-fresh-Scent: Depressing?

The Fine Print:
I used to do some spokesperson work for Sunlight in Canada(Sunlight laundry detergent is a competing brand in Canada), but I am not currently under contract to Sunlight, nor have I been for a couple of years.

| posted by Ann D @ 9:15 AM