See the Spots: Method Makes a Pretty Mess to Back Its Products

Muhtayzik/Hoffer Work Latest in Stepped-Up Natural Cleaner Battle

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Green cleaning ads are getting a decidedly new look, as Method launches a campaign via connected TV, digital, outdoor and in-store that encourages people to joyfully make messes with the confidence that natural products can clean them up.

The new effort from Muhtayzik/Hoffer and digital shop Essence shows in highly stylized slow-mo sequences people making intentional messes using a leaf blower on birthday cake, throwing fruit into a fan or hitting meatballs with golf clubs with the slogans "fear no mess" and "Method: Clean ingredients for dirty play."

Method will put $12 million behind the effort, which won't make it to conventional TV, but will appear on connected TV devices, YouTube pre-roll, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, the Viggle app, in-store and elsewhere out-of-home. The latter placements are meant to "stop pedestrians in their tracks by presenting a surprising video loop where each mess execution is seemingly endless and magical."

Method's new campaign comes close on the heels of Seventh Generation rolling out a $15 million effort on TV and digital from 72andSunny featuring actor Maya Rudolph humorously poking fun at the unnatural colors and fragrances of cleaning products. Both of the bigger incumbents in natural cleaning are stepping up their advertising as rival Honest Co. appears poised for an initial public offering that will likely leave it flush with cash to step up its own campaign.

Also creating some turbulence in the category, a report last month in The Wall Street Journal, based on independently commissioned lab tests, that Honest Co. detergents contain the sudsing ingredient sodium lauryl sulfate despite claims to the contrary (Honest Co. denies this).

"The biggest thing holding consumers back from trying a brand like ours is inertia," said Method CMO Alison Worthington. "Consumers are really in a rut." So the campaign was designed to be visually arresting, or "weird and wonderful, with intriguing characters and fantastical messes."

Consumers "know they shouldn't use unhealthy ingredients, but they're stuck in that routine," she said. But Method chose to approach that message more with art than preachiness. And it's not the only natural cleaner brand reaching for a new way to get its point across.

The category needs some new advertising approaches, said Seventh Generation Chief Marketing Officer Joey Bergstein. "Nobody wants to have the green finger wagged at them," he said. "If we can connect with people in a lighthearted way, we think we'll have more success."

In Method's case, the brand has always been firmly rooted in style and design -- and making cleaning fun, so the new creative approach is a natural progression. "The message here is that dirt is not the enemy," Ms. Worthington said. "Boring is."

It's perhaps the most surreal household cleaner advertising ever, drawing on visual styling of fashion, said John Matejczyk, executive creative director of Muhtayzik/Hoffer.

"As consumers, we're so busy trying to wipe away every little germ we're forgetting what we did to create the mess," said Joel Kaplan, creative director. "I explained it to someone this way: When you talk about a rock star trashing a hotel room, that's the story, not the person cleaning it up the next day. So let's make sure we're focusing on the excitement behind the story."

It includes digital out-of-home with such things as a melting snow cone on an endless loop, which Ms. Worthington described as "GIF-like" and thus also ideally designed for the short-attention-span theater that is advertising on Facebook and other mobile social media.

Method considered broadcast, but ultimately decided to chase its "digital native" target entirely online, including ads delivered programmatically in programming or via pre-roll on Roku. It's part of a plan to step up spending long term, increasing it 25% annually going forward, she said.

Despite the timing, the new campaign isn't aimed either at capitalizing on the publicity woes or girding for an IPO-funded onslaught by Honest, Ms. Worthington said. "This is part of our ongoing commitment to support the brand."