Super Bowl

See Mr. Clean Become Sexy, and Real, as a Men's Role Model in Super Bowl Ad

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Mr. Clean has lived nearly 60 years without making it into a Super Bowl ad. It turns out he was just waiting for the right time, when he could be a role model as an irresistibly sexy modern guy who cleans.

The Procter & Gamble Co. brand will make its Super Bowl debut with an ad from Leo Burnett, Toronto, showing a woman turned on by a sexy animated version of the animated icon, who then morphs into her husband, who has been helping out with household chores. At that point she jumps on him passionately, forcing him onto a couch, as the tagline "You gotta love a man who cleans" appears.

"There's no better way to reach a co-ed audience than the Super Bowl," said Martin Hettich, the P&G VP-North American Home Care who greenlighted the ad. "And the subject we're broaching with Mr. Clean really is for a co-ed audience, because it's talking about cleaning and how men and women divide up the chores. And there's still a way to go."

While some surveys, even those cited in the past by sibling brand Swiffer, show most men believe that they do at least an equal amount of household work, P&G research suggests they aren't doing as much as they think. "There's a clear disconnect between what men say they're doing and what they're actually doing," Mr. Hettich said, with only 32% of men doing the majority of cleaning in a household vs. 44% of women, with equal sharing in around 17% of households.

Mr. Clean's brand going back to the 1950s was about a genie-in-a-bottle helping women with chores. But the growing possibility of men shouldering the cleaning burden, particularly among millennials, makes the idea of that mythical figure morphing into a real guy more believable now, as Mr. Hettich sees it. He also hopes the fact that things still don't really happen that way in many households can help the ad spur conversation and social-media buzz, amplified by Super Bowl viewers' tendency to post on Twitter and Facebook throughout the game.

As for the sexy part, Mr. Hettich said, the brand wants to stake out a unique position in its category by asking if cleaning can be "part of the appeal in a relationship." P&G research suggests that it can, he said.

Mr. Clean may be the elder statesman in P&G home care, but he's long since been surpassed in sales and media budgets by the likes of Swiffer, Dawn and Febreze, the latter getting a Super Bowl ad of its own for the first time this year. With Mr. Clean's TV spending estimated at under $23 million for the past year per iSpot.tv, one $5 million Super Bowl spot alone could chew up more than a fifth of the annual budget. So why take the risk?

"We want to maximize the reach," Mr. Hettich said, citing Chief Brand Officer Marc Pritchard's discussions about the "the importance of broad reach and strong media plans."

Mr. Clean muscled out P&G siblings for the Super Bowl slot in a creative contest among all the household cleaning brands that Mr. Hettich markets. Because Febreze also had strong creative from Grey, and a new product launch and brand restaging with its improved OdorClear technology, it also got the green light for a coveted spot in the game. "We were really impressed by what all the brands did," Mr. Hettich said.

While Mr. Clean's Super Bowl ad doesn't back new products at this point, those will be coming later this year, according to Mr. Hettich. And besides that, he believes P&G hasn't invested enough in Mr. Clean over the past decade. So when the former North American home care marketing executive came back to the business in 2014 after years in Latin America, he decided to change that.

Efforts also included introducing a contemporary version of the old Mr. Clean jingle this summer, which has been well received. Nielsen data from Deutsche Bank show P&G gained 0.7 points to reach a 7.3% share in Mr. Clean's $1.6 billion liquid cleaners category last year.