In July, web and TV audiences were introduced to young-at-heart lovebirds Lee and Morty Kaufman. Viewers peered into the 90-year-old couple's home and life together in Valley Stream, N.Y., looking on as Lee, a retired schoolteacher, labored to keep her home clean using an old-fashioned mop and too-heavy bucket.
Now America has fallen in love with the Kaufmans thanks to Procter & Gamble and Publicis Kaplan Thaler, who cast them in a series of spots to demonstrate the "Swiffer effect" after they were given a blue P&G box full of Swiffer products that would hopefully simplify Lee's arduous mopping and dusting routine.
Among the products Lee and Morty tested is Swiffer WetJet over a two-day period in which the married couple of 44 years filmed a testimonial that would later be cut to a three-minute clip as well as three 30-second spots. Whether it was retired pharmacist Morty's doting or just the couple's rapport and candor on film, the spots charmed viewers and have received more than 5 million online hits.
Ad Age tracked down the Kaufmans to find out if their lives have changed since the commercials starting running.
Ad Age: How did you become involved with this project? Who approached you?
Morty: Well, my daughter Myra knows a casting director and he requested a suggestion of an "older, more mature couple" and she recommended us. Then they came and looked us over and said "very good." Nothing romantic, but very simple.
Ad Age: How did you respond to that?
Morty: Well, we were baffled. I've been retired for nearly 30 years and this is a very foreign environment for me. I do voluntary work at Nassau Community College and people in the office came over to me and said 'How did you get into this?' and I said 'I really don't know, myself.' But it's all very pleasant and very nice. It's stimulating.
Lee: Really, it just fell into our laps. Quite an exciting event in our lives, you can bet your bottom buck on that one!
Ad Age: So after 30 years of retirement you're getting your close up.
Lee: Indeed! Of all the dreams I ever had, I never had one about this happening to us. It's very exciting!
Morty: Very exciting. My head is spinning.
Ad Age: What has the response to the ad been since it was first aired?
Lee: We've had quite a response from the community and friends. It's been a fascinating revelation as far as the number of people that have contacted us from the past. We're popular!
Morty: They're coming out of the woodwork. I had a young man who worked for me when he was 12 years old -- he's 81 now -- and he called me and we were just rehashing old times.
Ad Age: Do you get recognized?
Lee: Morty, weren't we stopped by somebody once?
Morty: Yes, somebody stopped us in the street.
Lee: We were coming out of the diner and somebody said "Hey Morty!" we looked around and didn't see anybody we knew and it was someone who'd recognized us.
Ad Age: Would you like to film some more videos for Swiffer?
Lee: We would have no objections -- It's been a fine experience for us. We've had no public exposure.
Morty: It's been very nice, very different from the past.
Ad Age: Had you used Swiffer prior to this?
Lee: Not particularly.
Morty: In fact, when we were exposed to it, we were very pleased, because it seems to be a very efficient and easy to set up process.