If the pandemic has made us yearn for one thing, it’s a good poop.
Well, among many other things. Along with far more serious issues like death and debilitating side effects, COVID-19 and the lockdown lifestyle it spawned have caused more constipation. So when Bayer’s Phillips brand recently launched an ad from Energy BBDO proclaiming, “You deserve a good poop,” it was very much of the moment, as Teresa Gonzalez-Ruiz, VP of marketing for Nutritionals and Digestive Health at Bayer sees it.
People staying home, stressed out, sitting more, eating carb-loaded comfort food–that all contributes to the constipation side-pandemic, Gonzalez-Ruiz says. Meanwhile, people have gotten used to a certain informality from a year of working at home, unshaven, in casual clothes, sometimes attending Zoom meetings. So when Energy BBDO came up with the colloquial “poop” idea, the time seemed right.
“The brand is on fire,” Gonzalez-Ruiz says of Phillips, and it’s been getting overwhelmingly positive comments since it launched the ad last month.
Bayer’s ad is among the milder manifestations of an ongoing trend toward marketers serving up the unvarnished truth about bodily fluids and functions. While in the past, advertisers might have used purposely vague representations and polite-company language in ads for intimate products, today they are telling it like it is. Gone are the blue liquids—today marketers are embracing blood or blood-like representations in sanitary protection products, nursing moms’ chafed and clogged nipples, Charmin bears’ itchy bottoms or cervical mucus.
And while a Harris Poll of consumers for Ad Age shows many people still uncomfortable seeing or hearing some of these things in ads, the trend only appears to be accelerating.
The reasons are myriad: Younger targets for mainstream brands are less likely to be offended by straight talk and big brands are increasingly competing with edgier challenger and direct-to-consumer brands that flaunt norms and don't mince words.
From d-to-c to mainstream
One of the bigger drivers of forthrightness in advertising has been the rise of direct-to-consumer challenger brands, which make a habit of talking frankly about the conditions they deal with, says Dipanjan Chatterjee, VP and marketing analyst with Forrester.
Squatty Potty, for example, has made a small fortune selling small step stools that help people excrete better. Its video showing a unicorn who poops rainbow-colored soft-serve ice cream has more than 40 million YouTube views. Poo-Pourri similarly has built a business for its toilet spray around potty humor. And Roman founder and CEO Zacharia Reitano talks frankly into the camera about his own erectile dysfunction problems on TV to pitch his online-prescribed solution.