No more soft sell: TP titans sex it up

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The unglamorous $6 billion-plus toilet paper business is getting flashy as marketers break campaigns-including a Super Bowl ad and Times Square promotional appearance-that forsake the old daytime TV landscape ruled by Mr. Whipple, cherubic babies and puppies.

In its second campaign in as many weeks, Georgia-Pacific Corp. moves its six-year-old quilting ladies into live-action settings starting today, boosting ad spending 50% behind what it calls its biggest upgrade ever to Quilted Northern, the category's No. 2 brand. Last week, the company broke a new "Bathroom Angels" campaign for Angel Soft.

Omnicom Group's DDB Worldwide, New York, handles both brands in what should be a combined $40 million to $50 million effort. Georgia-Pacific spent $18 million through the first nine months of 2003, according to TNS Media Research/CMR. Angel Soft was largely off air last year, but should return to historical spending levels, which have been in the $8 million to $10 million range, according to Jill Mattos, senior brand director-bath tissue.

Super Bowl appearance

Both brands are getting into the game ahead of Procter & Gamble Co.'s Charmin, which will make the first-ever Super Bowl appearance by P&G Feb. 1 in a new ad by Publicis Groupe's Publicis Worldwide.

The toilet-paper titans both want to reverse a surge by rival Kimberly-Clark Corp.-whose Kleenex-Cottonelle and Scott brands have gained ground in recent years marked by a bare-knuckle promotional brawl.

Quilted Northern looks to close some of the roughly eight to 10-point gap separating it from Charmin, while Angel Soft is positioning itself more against Cottonelle as they vie for No. 3 overall.

A second round of ads breaks in late February for Quilted Northern, featuring the quilting ladies who will carry their enthusiasm beyond toon-land, first in a production studio and later to grocery store.

The marketer also will run a 10,000-store floor-ad campaign featuring extra-large ads of up to 24 square feet. And the brand will host a Times Square New Year's-style event Jan. 13 featuring Dick Clark and quilter walkabouts.

Breaking campaigns for both premium brands almost simultaneously is unprecedented for Georgia-Pacific and "generated lots of discussion here," Ms. Mattos said. She added that the media plan by Publicis' Zenith, New York, targets different consumers using different cable networks and keeps the brands from going heavy at the same time.

"We think Cottonelle is vulnerable," said Ms. Mattos of Angel Soft's rival. While the Kimberly-Clark brand has gained ground in recent years, she believe its shifts from featuring "cushy ripples" to close-ups of people's posteriors to ads featuring a puppy have left a fuzzy brand image. WPP Group's J. Walter Thompson, New York, handles. A Kimberly-Clark spokesman declined comment.

Angel Soft looks to de-fuzz its image with its harder-edged "Bathroom Angels" mascots, who wisecrack their way through such "bathroom emergencies" as lint storms caused by rival brands (See the spot at QwikFIND aap26u).

Meanwhile, Charmin will use its Super Bowl spot to celebrate replacement of its 50-year-old cherubic baby trademark with its three-year-old bear ad icon, inspired by the age-old scatological rhetorical question about what bears do in the forest. The tagline: "Soft and Strong for Your Endzone."

"We really want to bring the bear to life at all touchpoints with the consumer," said John Brase, Charmin brand manager.

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