'Dirty Jobs' Host Mike Rowe Keeps Cleaning Up in Ad World

Former QVC, HSN Pitchman Adds Viva to Duties for Ford and Lee Jeans

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BATAVIA, Ohio (AdAge.com) -- Mike Rowe may already be seen by more people more often as pitchman for Ford automobiles and Lee Jeans than his day job as host of Discovery Network's "Dirty Jobs." Now, he's taking on extra duty as pitchman for Kimberly-Clark Corp.'s Viva paper towels.

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'Dirty Jobs' star Mike Rowe is now appearing in ads for Viva.

Perhaps not since Michael Jordan or Billy Mays in their heydays has one man pitched so many products so prominently and simultaneously. The only other may be the late Mr. Mays' friend and longtime producer, the lesser-known pitchman Anthony Sullivan, who has taken over as the face of Church & Dwight Co.'s OxiClean.

But the folks at Kimberly-Clark and its agency, Tris3ct (pronounced Trisect), Chicago, whose campaign for Viva paper towels breaks Feb. 14, don't think Mr. Rowe is overexposed yet.

Mr. Rowe's appeal may be a cross between Mr. Jordan and Mr. Mays, with a definite lean toward the latter. "We saw him as a person who really connects with the everyday person," said Geoffrey Golub, Viva brand manager.

"Mike knows messes," Mr. Golub added. "It's a great opportunity to demonstrate if Mike Rowe can make the mess then Viva can really clean it up."

To be sure, Mr. Rowe knows a thing or two about pitching products, having been trained on the same turf as Messrs. Mays and Sullivan. He spent time as a host on QVC and HSN prior to his gigs with Discovery, Ford and Lee.

The potential for co-op advertising seems obvious: Mike Rowe washing a Ford using a Viva paper towel while wearing Lee Jeans. But that's not in the cards. In the Viva ad, Mr. Rowe makes the mess while his mom uses Viva to clean it up. His father also appears in the ad, joining the family business in a sense.

Mr. Golub said K-C discovered Ms. Rowe from a blog on his website, MikeRoweWorks.com, part of Mr. Rowe's foundation to support men and women in skilled trades. K-C made a donation to the foundation as part of its relationship with Mr. Rowe.

Viva's sales and shares have been "stable" in a paper-towel category that's seen some decline in the past year, Mr. Golub said.

Tris3ct has worked on Viva for a few years, but the brand hasn't had TV support in more than five years, said Paul Kuzma, chief creative officer of Tris3ct.

"I don't think he's really overexposed in terms of being authentic," Mr. Kuzma said of Mr. Rowe. "What we liked most was Mike's honest opinion of things. ... We need to tell people that Viva is a really tough towel. It kind of has an image problem, and so we thought if we took the dirtiest guy in America and put him together with his mom we'd have a winning combination."

The Viva campaign, for which K-C didn't disclose spending, also includes in-store, coupon and digital support, including a Facebook fan page, is the latest in a growing body of work for the small Chicago shop. Tris3ct last year also picked up the Cottonelle brand, formerly handled by JWT, which still handles sibling Andrex outside the U.S. And the Chicago independent also handles K-C's Scott brand.

"They're a very small, nimble shop, and we have a great strategic partnership," Mr. Golub said. The agency world, he said, "can have a lot of large bureaucracies that inhibit creativity, and I think with Tris3ct we get the exact opposite."

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