Procter & Gamble Co. is reaching back to the turn-of-the-millennium past and nostalgia for the Backstreet Boys to help launch Downy Rinse & Refresh.
The spot from Publicis Groupe’s Saatchi & Saatchi, part of the multi-agency Woven Collaborative for P&G North American fabric care brands, is also a break from the past. WPP’s Grey, which handled Downy for more than four decades prior, including after the formation of Woven in 2019, didn’t do this spot and is no longer working on the brand, according to Jenny Maxwell, senior brand director on Downy for P&G.
The ad shows a woman sniffing an old Backstreet Boys concert T-shirt, disturbed by a persistent odor that won’t come out in the wash, until singing band members from an old poster for the group—riffing off the tune of their “Tell Me Why” hit—clue her in on the power of new Downy Rinse & Refresh.
“Outside of loving the Backstreet Boys, and who doesn’t, I think it really started with a deep insight and human truth, which is everyone has their favorite garment and everyone has a favorite brand,” Maxwell said.
It certainly helped that the band had a prominent song in its catalog, “Tell Me Why,” that’s a nearly perfect setup for a commercial explaining benefits of a new product.
As to the why of Saatchi on this: “The rationale being with Saatchi that they have an amazing track record of success and proven creative that they’ve developed,” Maxwell said, noting work on Tide specifically by Saatchi under the Woven banner, which also has included other Publicis Groupe shops such as Leo Burnett, and a P&G in-house media team.
The move follows a series of executive departures and personnel changes, including on the P&G business, at Grey. A spokeswoman for Grey in a statement said: "There was no competitive pitch; it was part of a consolidation effort by P&G."
“They’re fantastic,” Maxwell said of Saatchi. “They deliver great breakthrough results. So we felt like this was a great opportunity for Saatchi to bring that level of creativity to the Downy brand.”
Saatchi has tried a number of pop culture, sports and entertainment collaborations with Tide, such as with Marvel’s latest Dr. Strange film this summer and its NFL partnership, said Daniel Lobaton, chief creative officer of Saatchi, New York.
“It was our first project as part of Woven for Downy, and it felt like the right time, to be honest,” Lobaton said. “People don’t want to get rid of their favorites, and we found that everyone has this favorite band T-shirt,” but sometimes they have persistent odors that need some extra help in the wash.