Spotting Splashman

No, you weren't seeing things: The man carrying the briefcase, wearing but a swim cap and white towel who jumped on the bus or hung out on the street in Vancouver, Calgary, Montreal and Toronto a few weeks ago, was not off his rocker.

No, you weren’t seeing things: The man carrying the briefcase, wearing but a swim cap and white towel who jumped on the bus or hung out on the street in Vancouver, Calgary, Montreal and Toronto a few weeks ago, was not off his rocker.

That was Splashman, part of the Cadbury Adams launch for Splash, the latest in the Trident gum family, and part of an integrated marketing campaign for the new brand. While most people simply thought he was loopy, for those who endeavoured to ask Splashman what the hell was going on, he would open his briefcase revealing a message that read: ‘You’ve just been splashed!’ and promptly hand them a pack of the new product.

David Nichols, VP marketing at Vancouver-based Inventa and part of the team responsible for the word-of-mouth push, says this is one of his recent favourite campaigns by the agency.

It generated buzz (he even received an e-mail and photo from a friend in Toronto who had seen Splashman but thought he was simply a kooky Torontonian dealing with the humidity) and rewarded those who had the ‘gumption’ to approach him with free gum.

That, he says, not only reinforces the TV spot, which was created by JWT and features a Speedo-sporting man getting splashed at a bus stop, but also offers an experience and an opportunity for consumers to connect with the brand beyond receiving a sample.

Even Splashman himself was a walking metric. All told, based on intersection tracking numbers, Nichols estimates 250,000 Canadians saw the character on the streets. Another 11,000 had some interaction with him, but only those who spoke to him – about 10,000 total – received a free pack of gum. Nichols says that this campaign was not meant to be a sampling program (numbers there typically go upwards of 300,000 products distributed), but about creating word of mouth.

And that it did.

Splashman has shown up in media across the country including the Toronto’s BreakfastTelevision, Montreal’s Caféine – le show du matin and Vancouver’s Shaw Cable. Inventa also had a dunk tank designed, which made stops at community events and busy intersections. Passersby could dunk one of the team members and receive a pack of gum. The dunk tank also acted as a moving billboard as it was transported between locales. And a related element of the campaign, the Trident Canonball Splash National Championship, an idea by Toronto-based PR agency Strategic Objectives, got huge media pick-up which included a feature on Canada AM.