Why Method Did Right in Pulling the Plug on 'Shiny Suds'

A Lesson in How Advertising Is About the Entire Audience

By Published on .

AdReview's favorite joke is about a guy who finds himself, very anxious, at the gates of hell. The devil tries to calm him down. "Do you gamble?" he asks. Guy says yes. Devil says, "Well, you'll love Mondays. It's Casino Day here in hell. We set you up with a big stack of chips. You gamble all day -- blackjack, roulette, Hold 'em, whatever. You keep your winnings, and if you lose, next Monday you get a fresh stack of chips. If you like to gamble, you'll love Mondays."

The devil then proceeds to ask the condemned man about fine dining ("Tuesday, all-you-can-eat day"); drinking ("Wednesday, open-bar day") and dope (whispering "Thursday, drug day"). Finally, he asks the new resident, "Are you gay?"

"No, I'm not gay."

"Hmm," the devil says, "you're gonna hate Fridays."

Now, perhaps you might wonder, "Hey, AdReview, how could someone we so revere -- and someone who has so angrily trashed BBDO for Snickers and Dodge ads caricaturing violence against swishy men -- delight in such a blatantly homophobic joke?"

Well, the answer is simple: the joke isn't homophobic itself. It's about homophobia. We tell it to everybody, gay and straight alike. And they laugh.

Now then: Shiny Suds. This was the online-video ad from Method cleaning products, parodying the rest of the household-cleaner genre with smiley, animated soap bubbles dancing about a bathtub, singing 'n' scrubbing, singing 'n' scrubbing, and giving the delighted working mom a sparkling, ShineTastic bathroom.

It's such a dead-on perfect imitation, there is no way whatsoever to realize Shiny Suds is a fictional brand. But then comes the next scene: It's morning, Mom is about to grab a shower before breakfast, when she pulls back the curtain to find the Shiny Suds still there.

"Morning!" they shout.

"What the f...?!" she exclaims.

Turns out, the chemical residue from Shiny Suds loiters long after the scrubbing ends, exposing you to whatever that implies. Because the real advertiser is Method organic tile cleaner, which is nominally doing the spot in support of the Household Product Labeling Act, but actually mongering uncertainty about your cabinet full of famous-name cleaners.

This it achieves by demonstrating how gross and threatening the residual suds are. As a slavering pack of cartoon predators, they tell her to wash herself, and then ooh and ah in increasing perversity until they're finally chanting "loofa, loofa, LOOFA!"

Pretty funny, in our opinion, and in the opinion of most of the million who watched it on YouTube and elsewhere. Because it was about creepy male aggression. Alas, a handful of feminist bloggers were not only disturbed by the narrative, they saw the ad as condoning rape. The few turned into a few hundred, and Method pulled the spot.

In an editorial elsewhere in the issue this week, Ad Age rolls its eyes at that decision -- or at least the culture of grievance that spawned it. AdReview respectfully disagrees.

Not that we believe this spot even remotely condones rape. The perverse bubbles are portrayed, after all, as a lurking threat. We think the outrage tells us a lot more about the outraged parties than about Method. But compare this advertiser's reaction -- choosing not to further offend and anger substantial parts of its target market -- with BBDO's laughable feigned shock that their cartoonish violence against the un-macho could be construed by anyone as a slur.

No, brands needn't cave to every kook and whiner with a grievance. But they must consider viewer feelings -- not just the target audience but the entire audience. Otherwise, every day is ad day. In hell.

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