It shows a man and woman about to hit the sack, to the tune of "The Look of Love," until the mood (and the recording) is broken, as she sees, most graphically, that his underwear is dirty. The "It's gotta be Tide" tagline is more like a punchline.
It's shocking. It's not ready-for-prime-time. And it wasn't commissioned by Procter & Gamble Co. Rather, the highly professional 30-second spot was created for $40 and shot in the living room of one of the volunteer actors by a young director for his reel. Thanks to thespecspot.com, a few thousand other people have seen it, too.
Maury Rosenfeld, owner of Los Angeles post-production house PlanetBlue, launched the site as a favor and outlet for young directors and agency creatives he works with who have ideas they can't get clients to bankroll. The Tide spot's director, Earl McDaniel III, said he's had no contact with P&G.
Mr. Rosenfeld sees TheSpecSpot as a more legit alternative to submitting ghost ads at the Cannes International Advertising Festival or other contests, a practice competitions have squelched in recent years.
Other ads on the site include a spec spot for Viacom's MTV, in which furloughed porn star Ron Jeremy works as a pizza-delivery guy, with predictable results.
The response to the site has taken Mr. Rosenfeld by surprise. Despite little fanfare, with publicity coming mainly from the advertising blog Adrants, TheSpecSpot had 30,000 visitors its first week, he said. Visitors are spending two to 20 minutes on the site, often writing lengthy reviews of spots.
Though Mr. Rosenfeld said he never intended to sell ads, he's rethinking that. He's also negotiating tie-ins that will take the spec ads to consumer Web sites for feedback.
"A lot of the spots on our site are well-thought-out," he said. "They end up resonating with [creatives] and I think the market in general."
Mr. Rosenfeld admits he was expecting a swift cease-and-desist letter from P&G, but so far it hasn't arrived. E-mailed the spot by Ad Age, P&G, at least initially, reacted with a shrug and a laugh.
"It's definitely not on Tide's brand equity by a million miles," said a P&G spokesman, though he admitted the brand team got a chuckle out of it. "There's not a lot you can do about what people post on the Web," he said.
"It may not be precisely the engineered brand image," said Mr. Rosenfeld, "but it's for people who are more interested in sex than making sure their kids have clean underwear." In an age of ad zapping on TV, he said he's got site visitors watching ads over and over.
Ford Motor Co. faced controversy in Europe earlier this year when a viral ad, appearing to be for the Ford ShopKa, showed the computer-generated decapitation of a cat by a sunroof. Ford denounced the unauthorized spot, which it said leaked from WPP Group's Ogilvy & Mather, London.
Mr. Rosenfeld said marketers may come to see TheSpecSpot as a way to promulgate ads for which they don't want responsibility.