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By Published on .

Lever Bros. is trying to reposition Surf with a new campaign that goes where no laundry detergent advertising has gone before.

Four 15- and 30-second TV spots starting today from Ogilvy & Mather, New York-Surf's first in three years-feature humorous situations, offbeat direction and irreverent copy in a clean break from traditional benefit-focused advertising.


The media selection also is designed to make waves in the $4 billion category. Outdoor advertising, postcards distributed at restaurants, "wild postings" on walls and fences surrounding construction sites, and posters for college dorm rooms will be used.

"For people who think detergent advertising, detergent work, is boring, this goes to show it can be a lot of fun," said Leonard Johnson, Surf marketing director.

"We will communicate with consumers in places they've never seen [this type of product] before," he added.

Though the ads have Generation X appeal, they're really aimed at a broad segment. The campaign tagline, "It's a dirty job but somebody's got to do it," is meant to appeal to what Lever found are the 45% of consumers who only do laundry because it's absolutely necessary.

The TV spots will first air in the brand's strongest markets-the Southwest, Southeast and mid-central regions-but may later be rolled national. They feature such offbeat stories as a young man in his underwear drying his pants by hanging them out the car window as he drives to meet his girlfriend's parents, only to have the pants fly out the window.


New back panels on Surf boxes feature cartoonish plays on washday nightmares, such as a boy who screams every time his security blanket goes into the wash. Another shows a woman who told researchers that she would rather go to the dentist than do laundry.

The effort comes at a time when Lever's detergent lineup could use a lift, said Andrew Shore, an analyst with PaineWebber. Its detergent share is 20% compared with market leader Procter & Gamble Co.'s 58%.

Surf's fourth-quarter 1995 market share was 3.3%.

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