FORT JAMES' BRAWNY PUTS GRANNIES TO THE TEST: DDB NEEDHAM USES LAUGHS TO DO BATTLE WITH BOUNTY

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If Procter & Gamble Co.'s Bounty is the 800-pound gorilla of paper towels, there's one tough granny out there ready to knock it on its bum.

She is the kindly old dame who throws her fridge a body block in a funny new 30-second spot from DDB Needham Worldwide, New York, titled "Grandmother" for Fort James Corp.'s Brawny brand.

In another example of package-goods marketers moving away from the typical conventions of their products' ads, the TV spot opens on two elderly ladies having tea. One spills a bit, then tells the other that she'll get a Brawny to clean it up.

"Don't waste Brawny on that, Bounty will do," says her friend.

Cut to her reaching for a roll of Brawny, featuring that oh-so-'70s, Tom Selleck-looking lumberjack on the label. Conveniently, it's sitting on the shelf in front of a roll of Bounty.

"What kind of mess do you use Brawny for?" asks the first lady. Her friend gets up, crosses over to the refrigerator and, with the ease of a burly prop man aided by unseen cables, knocks the appliance on its side. It literally bursts open, spilling what looks like the leftovers of a Roman feast all over the floor. "This kind," she says.

The spots end with a tag that might easily cross over to pop culture: "Got a Brawny kind of mess? Get a Brawny paper towel."

TOUGHER TOWEL

The creative team at DDB Needham thought it could use the product's claims of greater absorbency and toughness as a way to make inroads on the category leader.

"We pursued a strategy of it being the over-engineered paper towel," said art director Andy Dijak.

An additional goal was to boost Brawny's name recognition; Mr. Dijak said the brand at times gets confused with its bigger rival.

To hammer home the differences, the commercial segues into three quick product demonstrations, each given a similarly comic twist. Indeed, striking the right balance between sell and shtick was a key point.

KEEPING THE HUMOR

"The creatives knew they had a funny idea," said director Brent Thomas of Green Dot Films, Los Angeles. "The big issue was to find a way to say concrete things about the brand and keep the funniness in."

The solution, said Mr. Dijak, was to make the women and their relationship integral to the presentation of the product demos. In one, for example, the older of the two women is seen perched on the shoulders of the taller. (Don't worry. No seniors were hurt in the production of the spot, Mr. Thomas pointed out: "We flew her on cables.") She drops the competing rolls from her outstretched arms to show that Brawny unfurls farther.

DDB Needham executives wouldn't disclose the media budget for the spot; they pointed out, however, that Fort James was outspent by P&G by a factor of 5-to-1 last year. They also estimated Bounty's market share as three times that of Brawny.

From a conceptual standpoint, the idea of the Brawny mess possibly has some legs. DDB Needham Management Supervisor David Bartlem noted the category tends to be considered a low-involvement one, and the strategy behind creating over-the-top examples of Brawny messes is aimed at simultaneously driving up consumer interest in paper towels as well as the brand.

MORE POSSIBLE

Will there be more of these Felix Unger nightmares?

DDB Needham Co-Creative Director Steve Landsberg said the agency has in development additional spots using the same device, although it won't be a sequel to the grannies. Sadly, the actress who played the fridge tosser died several months after the commercial was shot.

Additional credits go to DDB Needham Account Planning Director Maria Curto and

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