Advertiser: S.C. Johnson & Son
Agency: Foote, Cone & Belding, Chicago
Ad Review rating: 3 stars
"Created by nature," is the slogan, "Captured by Glade."
Don't laugh. While this is precisely the preposterous-sounding claim you'd expect from one of the more pitiful backwaters of advertising creativity, two new spots for S.C. Johnson & Son's line of room deodorizers vividly, visually, verily make a case.
Credit Foote, Cone & Belding, Chicago, for exploring a whole new approach in a category that, by contrast, has always truly, tragically, transcendently stunk.
Over the years, we've seen the beautiful housewife in the flowing skirt poised like Carol Merrill in front of Door No. 3, with a vacant smile and vague glance upwards, spraying deodorizer in wide generous arcs. (You had to study the interior decor carefully to deduce that this spacious room she's in, the one with the heather print wallpaper and the inviting shafts of dusty sunlight, is the crapper. Thereupon little imagination is required to complete the scenario: Dad has done it again, and the guests will be here in 5 minutes.)
At least one advertiser found an apt symbol in a gigantic pair of reeking athletic socks. And, then, God help us all, there was the Fish Family--a husband and a wife and their little spawn, dressed up like sea bass, fouling the air and the airwaves. Yes, three simpering ichthyovestites flogging Renuzit with the subtlety of a gaff through the gill.
This historic focus on odor-eating has mainly to do with the obvious product benefit, but it also has to do with the less obvious product shortcoming: air fresheners themselves stink to high Heaven.
These products aren't exactly Chanel; they're more like Right Guard for Home. Given their awesome responsibility to camouflage interior pollution, they are heavily, sickeningly, overwhelmingly perfumed. Deodorizers aren't about subtlety. They're about fighting household stench with floral stench. And to many consumers, the cure is worse than the disease.
But what if, just once, an advertiser were sufficiently confident with the intrinsic qualities of its product to direct your attention not to the smells you wish to conceal, but to the fragrance you wish to deliver?
This is revolutionary thinking, not just because it's a tough sell to anyone who has walked into a powder room and a nauseating cloud of canned springtime freshness. It's also hard because of the limitations of TV.
Which, of course, is not Smell-o-vision.
Oh, it's easy enough to talk about natural, appealing scent, but very hard to evoke it. So it's amazing, on the strength of their visuals alone, just how well FCB and director Michael Cuesta Jr. have succeeded. Their lavender fields, strawberry vines and variegated meadows constitute the most lovely, evocative, delicious use of color since FCB, San Francisco's, own Dockers campaign, shot by Joe Pytka, a decade ago.
Soft of focus but saturating the screen, the meadow suggests not industrial-strength fragrance compound L317 but actual whiffs of nature's own perfume. Indeed, whether focused on flora or people or product, all of the cinematography here is magnificent, cutting and dissolving most elegantly to the like-colored packages of lavender, strawberry and "country fresh" Glade. The rich, lush visual simile lends powerful credibility to the otherwise easily dismissed claim of naturalness. And the airy type treatment, floating across the screen as if on a breeze, does nothing to impair the illusion.
From a marketing sensibility that hitherto brought us the Fish Family, this is a welcome breath of fresh air.
Copyright May 1997, Crain Communications Inc.