Adages: Only 6 out of 10 men wash up, and other lessons from the john

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"I always thought of the women's room as a gathering place and the men's room as a place to do business," says Peter Villuci, creative director at Philadelphia ad shop The Hal Lewis Group, who participated in Kimberly-Clark Professional's recent bathroom makeover contest, otherwise billed as the Battle of the Sexes. "But when I saw the ladies room at Star, I was surprised there were no chairs. It was very sterile."

Mr. Villuci and colleagues Marvin Bowe, creative director at Hal Lewis and chief operating officer James Boland, remade the women's room at The Star Group in Cherry Hill, N.J. While Tracy Donofry, Star's senior VP-creative director, and Karen Cutler, senior VP, labored over the men's room at Hal Lewis.

Mr. Villuci says the sterility of the women's room inspired his crew. "The row of stalls looked like cabanas where you change on the beach. So we brainstormed and came up with the idea of visuals of sunsets, palm trees, the ocean and Jimmy Buffet music."

Which tribe won? Doug Sutton, director of marketing of Kimberly-Clark Professional, Roswell, Georgia, says that would be decided by Gordon Javna, otherwise known as K-C Pro's "Roving Restroom Rater" and the author of "Uncle John's Bathroom Readers." "He's an aficionado of office bathrooms," says Mr. Sutton of Mr. Javna. "He rates them, like restaurants, and tends to find the quality of facilities is directly related to the amount of billings at a company."

Mr. Sutton and his company know a thing or two about bathrooms. It's where they do their business. K-C Pro specializes in toilet tissue and dispensers.

Their marketing platform, says Mr. Sutton, is "never underestimate the impact of your restroom." At company headquarters there are laboratories that are essentially simulated bathrooms where they constantly test toilet habits. Toilet-paper dispensers in the labs are wired to a computer that "monitors an event, that's what we like to call them," explains Mr. Sutton. "And it counts how much toilet paper is used." They also track toilet-paper theft. "We've measured theft rates of toilet paper in offices between 10% to 20%. Those rolls are round but they do have legs, apparently."

Mr. Sutton says they've also "found that women spend more time in the bathroom than men. Not necessarily because their visits are more complicated. Sadly enough, only 6 out of 10 guys wash their hands after they go to the bathroom." Mr. Sutton embedded researchers in stalls to come up with this number. "When we positioned a guy at the sink, the incidence of hand washing for men went way up," says Mr. Sutton, "indicating men don't wash because they have to, they do it because they are worried about their reputation."

Will Spike Lee sue again?

An English-language weekly magazine called Spike has just launched in Hong Kong. The first issue, with a Nov. 21 cover date, sells for $3.20 and has 48 pages, of which about five are devoted to advertising for marketers such as the Diwang Commercial Center, the retail shop Panhandler and Asian Golf Monthly. The rest of the book features hard-hitting political, business and social commentary.

The magazine targets a readership of Chinese and expatriate middle-class professionals. "It seemed to us that the situation in Hong Kong is ripe for a satire and commentary magazine," says Stephen Vines, who founded Spike Publications with Jon Marsh, the magazine's editor.

A spokesman at Viacom men's channel Spike TV said the network had no plans to sue the owners of the new magazine: "We're not going to be `spike-ful' about it." Spike Lee could not be reached.

Contributing: Normandy Madden For more bathroom reading, contact rlinnett@crain.com

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