Not That You Need It…
Taking the “Dis” out of “Discomfort”
By Jeff Hirsch
A friend and neighbor of mine, a youthful, semi-retired 70-year-old who knows I work in marketing, recently told me about a new ad campaign he really loves. It’s for the “adult diaper” brand Depend. Not that he needs them. Wondering why he would single that out from everything else running these days, I visited the Depend website to see what he was talking about.
Kimberly-Clark seems to have found a comfortable way to talk about a very disturbing topic, infusing their novel approach with youth and humor. That the campaign is grounded in important, functional benefits that create physical comfort, which in turn ladder up seamlessly to emotional comfort, makes it all the more powerful.
The theme for the new campaign is “The Great American Try On,” (see it here) where a goofy, male announcer type with a microphone comically stalks celebrities you would never associate with Depend. “I know you don’t need one, but will you try these on for charity to prove how great the fit is?” Soap opera actress Lisa Rinna, appearing with her husband Harry Hamlin, is challenged to try on new Depend “Silhouette for Women” under a skin-tight black evening gown, while football stars Clay Matthews, Wes Welker and DeMarcus Ware are asked to don “Real Fit For Men” briefs under their football pants.
After mocking surprise over the seemingly outrageous request, the celebrities agree to slip into Depend’s for charity. Rinna reappears striking poses and strutting her stuff on the red carpet, while the football players return to the practice field to be put through their paces on various practice drills. The celebrities all rave about no one would ever know that they have them on, themselves included, since they’re so comfortable.
The campaign is a stroke of genius just at the right time, as Baby Boomers enter their Depend Years. Past advertising featured faded stars, once beloved but now geriatric, owning up to adult incontinence. One might argue that this approach is better now than ever, because the “old timers” of the early 21st century are way cooler and far more youthful than the old timers of previous generations. Former Depend’s spokesperson June Allyson had little relevance and no box office draw when she was hired. But the icons of Boomer youth – Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney and The Rolling Stones to name a few – still sell out arenas.
Icons or not, they’re still old, and Boomers don’t want to think of themselves that way. Better to convince themselves that “50 is the new 30” and they can stay forever young by listening to rock music, popping Viagra, hitting the gym, taking yoga classes, and if they can afford it, “getting some work done.”
So how brilliant of Kimberly Clark to market a product aimed at older people without showing or talking about older people in their communications. And they don’t just use any young people, they get a hot 48 year old woman and three 20 or 30-something pro football all-stars. Sexy. Virile. Admired. In control.
The key line, delivered almost as throw away, is “I know you don’t need one.” Which is as if to say, “If the beautiful people will try one on and prance around, then what have you got to lose?” The premise of doing it for charity – and then actually delivering for some good causes – is icing on the cake.
I suppose this campaign is as easily spoofed as the older ones, and that Depends jokes will always be staple of stand up comedy and SNL sketches. But delivering the product message with a wink and an infusion of (relative) youth is a great innovation in generating positive conversation around a topic no one really wants to talk about.