Oh, we're on the edge of our seats.
After all, we've been hearing for ages about Procter's desire to break out of formulaic advertising and into the Brave New World of creativity. Last year it sent a delegation to Cannes. This year it had the intra-agency contest for the Super Bowl slot. Maybe next year it'll put funny mushrooms in the Sunny D.
Well, we're ambivalent.
Procter surely has, historically, clung to the tried-and-true ad technique of defining the problem and dramatizing the solution-in ways sure to be understood by the consumer of average intelligence, by the consumer of below-average intelligence and by the majority of single-celled organisms.
Hence such clear but vapid characters as Josephine the Plumber for Comet cleanser; Mrs. Olsen, the Folger's-brewing housebreaker and Mr. Whipple, the perverted grocer with the Charmin fetish.
What has been good about this advertising is that it has sold trizillions of dollars worth of Comet, Folgers and Charmin. What's bad is it made you hate your TV. Long before media fragmentation changed the ecosystem, consumers tuned out commercials-all commercials-because Mr. Whipple was just so awful to watch.
But here's the problem: Too often, the advertising that attempts to please the viewer winds up screwing the advertiser. It's so busy being creative, it forgets to be advertising - a problem that has gotten progressively worse over the years. Check out the Cannes screening rooms sometime; it's a 30-second comedy festival underwritten by a group of rich suckers called "clients."
Don't ask which. Their identities tend to be concealed amid all the hilarity.
So does P&G really need to be more creative? If the answer hinged on the winning Super Bowl entry-a horrendous Charmin spot from Publicis-we'd leap to say no. NO! PLEASE STOP CREATING! It was, like, "Come back, Mr. Whipple."
But, who'd have guessed? The Pringles ad from (of all places) Grey, New York, is very, very good.
For the first 20 seconds, it looks like a Gatorade commercial: a montage of fit, artfully lighted people sweating like pigs-this to the gathering, percussive vocals of "Carmina Burana." But then the perspirers begin to look less like athletes and more like regular people until, come to discover, they aren't exercising at all.
They're eating new Fiery Hot Pringles.
Not a word of copy, yet a perfect articulation of the brand ... uh ... benefit. And in spite of its underlying wittiness: perfectly understandable to anyone. Even the 15-year-old target.
This ad reminds us that maybe P&G is on the right trail, after all. As we have documented in this space many times-albeit all too seldom-wit, subtlety and surprise can indeed be marshaled in the service of a selling idea. Not in the service of a punch line, or of a Lion or of a resume reel. In the service of a sale.
And, who knows? Maybe Procter, with its legendary marketing rigor, is better positioned than anyone to find the nexus.
Grey Worldwide, New York
Ad Review Rating: 3.5 stars