Man-on-the-street is a big plus for Pert

By Published on .

Advertiser: Procter & Gamble Co.
Agency: Leo Burnett USA, Chicago
Ad Review rating: Three and 1/2

By now, in all probability, you've seen "There's Something About Mary." Certainly you've seen the trailer, and therefore you know about the hair-gel scene, in which Cameron Diaz takes the goo dripping from Ben Stiller and puts it in her own golden tresses.

Only it isn't hair gel.

And entire audiences of otherwise self-controlled adults scream and moan and laugh and flail in a sort of mass grand mal seizure, because this shamelessly adolescent gag is so hilariously revolting.

Yet as horrifying as it is to imagine putting that in your hair, it's still not as bad as Pert Plus.

The old Pert Plus, anyway. In its original formulation, the 2-in-1 shampoo plus conditioner made you feel that you had washed your hair with Mop & Glo. The convenience of 2-in-1s sent the category skyrocketing a decade ago, but the heavy, gummy residue eventually turned consumers, especially female consumers, way off.

So now comes a reformulated, water-based Pert Plus--allegedly minus the residue--and Leo Burnett USA, Chicago, is charged with persuading women to reconsider the brand. In so doing, Burnett has turned to one very familiar advertising concept, and one that's practically unheard of.

The familiar part is the man-on-the-street instant demo, which Procter & Gamble has used in various forms all over the world. In the U.K. it was the Daz "doorstep challenge," featuring a guy standing on your front stoop with a camera crew offering to do your wash. In Colombia, to sell Ya detergent, an intrepid Burnett team washed a peddler's horse. And now, to restage Pert Plus, they have a guy running around South Beach with a cameraman and a sink trying to disabuse women of their 2-in-1 dissatisfaction.

"Hi! We're in Miami," he says to open the 60-second spot. "We've got a sink, new Pert Plus with `clean conditioning.' We're washin' hair and we're changin' minds."

That's the unheard of part. To change their minds, the Pert Plus man first confronts how they made up their minds in the first place. This spot is astonishingly straightforward about the shortcomings of the previous generation of products.

Screen 1 from the spot

Screen 2 from the spot

Screen 3 from the spot

Screen 4 from the spot

"Have you ever used one of those shampoo and conditioners in one?" he asks several passing women until he finally finds someone who has.

"Didn't like it," the lady says.

"I hated them," says the next woman.

"I hated them," says the next.

"Kinda . . . uhhgh," says the next.

"Limp and dead," says the next.

"Weighs your hair down," the first lady says, to be specific.

"We're 0-for-4, my friend," the interviewer says to the camera guy, although actually he's 0-for-5. Then he offers to wash their hair in the new Pert Plus.

"But this stuff, since they . . . they redid it, it's been revolutionarily, like, redesigned with a water-based conditioner. There's no oil, no wax, so your hair's gonna feel clean, clean."

And then he, like, demonstrates. And they are, like, convinced.

"Tell me what it feels like," he says.

"Wow!" says one.

"It feels light," says another.

"It does seem lighter," says another.

Their hair, the tone of the ad--light as can be. Which, of course, is the opposite of heavy. Which is precisely what this charming, candid, persuasive ad seeks to evoke. Too formulaic, you say?

Oh, come come.

Copyright October 1998, Crain Communications Inc. ; ;

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