Grey gives Mr. Clean a fresh look

It is bound to be difficult to come up with an original way to get people to buy a household cleaning product. In this tired old category, marketers tend to stick to the all too familiar approach of product demonstrations in shiny, sterile kitchens and bathrooms, usually starring an overly coiffed housewife being far too excited by the assault on grime - but it doesn't really inspire anyone to switch brands does it?

It is bound to be difficult to come up with an original way to get people to buy a household cleaning product. In this tired old category, marketers tend to stick to the all too familiar approach of product demonstrations in shiny, sterile kitchens and bathrooms, usually starring an overly coiffed housewife being far too excited by the assault on grime – but it doesn’t really inspire anyone to switch brands does it? Or to put down your newspaper and focus intently on the woman wiping a cloth over a filthy bathtub to reveal a miraculous gleam.

But then again, would the image of flowers growing out of your kitchen floor inspire you to buy a cleaning product? Maybe it would get your nose out of the TV guide.

Procter & Gamble’s latest campaign for Mr. Clean focuses on the different scents of the brand’s newly launched Four Seasons range of antibacterial all-purpose cleaners – Summer Citrus, Sparkling Apple, Spring Garden and Invigorating Breeze. A Canadian-created 30-second TV spot launched across Canada and the U.S. on Jan. 21.

Created in Toronto by Grey Worldwide, ‘Icons’ features a woman in a kitchen about to start cleaning with the sounds of birds singing and classical music in the background – everything seems normal so far. But here’s where it gets interesting – as she moves the mop over the floor, flowers sprout up from underneath her mop – symbolizing the fresh smell of the Spring Garden product.

The depressingly cheerful housewife goes on to ring her mop out in a bucket of Summer Citrus-enhanced water, to reveal lemons bouncing off the mop and rolling over the floor. Similar displays feature apples leaping out of a work surface and shimmering snowflakes bouncing off a gleaming white bathroom sink to push the Sparkling Apple and Invigorating Breeze products. The words ‘Clean smells like spring/summer…’ etc. appear on screen during each scene.

The spot then ends with the voice-over: ‘Introducing Four Seasons freshness, the freshness of seasons and antibacterial strength you trust, from Mr. Clean.’

It’s hardly the cringe- and guffaw-inducing stuff that Palmer Jarvis DDB created for rival brand, Pine Sol in 2000 (‘Bad Aim’ and ‘Dog Tired’ which won a gold Bessie award) but in fairness it does get the message across in a clean simple way, which the agency says was one of the key objectives.

‘The first thing we wanted to do is get across the fact that this is a new Mr. Clean. It’s not the same product that you’re used to,’ says Marc Stoiber, VP and executive CD at Grey. ‘It doesn’t look like a typical Mr. Clean commercial, because we’re introducing a new range.’

The spot is directed at women, aged 18 to 49 with kids under the age of 12 – more specifically, busy moms who work at least part time.

Stoiber says it was a deliberate choice to keep the ad free from voices until the very end. ‘This category is loaded with people telling you exactly what they’ve got. We just wanted to get the message across elegantly and simply. If we show objects like lemons and apples, it says a lot more than somebody sniffing a bottle and telling you what it smells like.’ And initial testing has had some very positive feedback from U.S. audiences, according to Stoiber.

‘If we can give people something that they haven’t seen before then it has a fighting chance of working,’ he says.

A print ad based on the same theme will launch in magazines including People and Homemaker’s in February.