Publicis Kaplan Thaler and P&G's Charmin Take Silver in Ad Age's Best Agency-Client Marriages Contest

For Over 50 Years, Marketer And Shop Have Talked 'Poop and Toilet Paper All Day, Every Day' -- And They Love It

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"We think about poop and toilet paper all day, every day. And we love it."

There couldn't be a better endorsement for the partnership between Publicis Kaplan Thaler and Charmin. For a half-century, the toilet-paper brand and the agency (and its various iterations before that) have adopted the sort of closeness and openness that can only be achieved by having a good sense of humor about your work. And that comes easily when work is talking about stuff that grosses most people out.

In its submission to Ad Age's agency-client marriage contest, Charmin said it's taken joy in the toilet talk "day after day, year after year, for over 50 years."

"There are no barriers," said the agency. "No awkward formalities. Nothing's off limits. ... We sit around a table and talk about pooping and wiping our bottoms. About lint, skid marks and leaving pieces behind. We talk about folding vs. crumpling. And that's before we even start talking about demos. If it's not in your nature to be open and honest, you won't last very long on this team. ... And you won't be able to forge the bonds that make for such a mutually caring relationship."

The story of Charmin goes back several decades to the Hoberg Paper Co. The design of its products were described as "charming" by an employee, and the Charmin brand name was born. Originally the Charmin family made paper towels, paper napkins, facial tissues and bath tissues. But after P&G bought the company in 1957, it discontinued all products except bath tissue.

It wasn't long before the predecessors to Publicis Kaplan Thaler (the result of various mergers of agencies including Benton & Bowles and Bcom3) was brought aboard. The agency was behind the Mr. Whipple character, who for more than 20 years appeared in TV, radio and print ads talking about the "squeezable softness" of Charmin to consumers. During the 1970s, Charmin TV commercials featured Charlotte Rae from the sitcom "The Facts of Life."

Over the years, the agency helped market new products such as Kid Fresh flushable wipes and Charmin Plus with Lotion and Aloe. There were unusual marketing tactics, too. In 2003, the brand embarked on the Charmin Pottypalooza tour, which brought clean potties to more than 2 million consumers at more than 20 events nationwide, including the Super Bowl in San Diego. All the exposure led to a nearly 15% uptick in sales. A few years later agency and client used technology to create and market the SitOrSquat mobile app to help people find clean public restrooms when they're on the go.

Said Charmin: "This longstanding partnership centered around a dedication to creating a more enjoyable "go' has enabled us to build a brand that has sold more toilet paper than anyone else, has weathered economic ups and downs, entry and exits of competitors, and welcomed new team members all while having a great time together."

Guess time flies when you're on a roll.

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