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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Kleenex: It's Time to Let It Out

Caught a new ad for Kleenex the other night that focuses on people "letting it all out"-- have a good cry, whether they be tears of joy, sadness, relief, etc. The spot leads viewers to the Kleenex branded website with the line "It's time to let it out". Check out a spot from the campaign here.

The spot caught my attention because I can't remember an ad for facial tissue that sought to spotlight the reason people reach for that Kleenex in the first place. The ads we see for Puffs and Brand X talk about the content of Aloe, softness, absorption, etc, rather than seeking out the emotional context of the brand/product and showcasing it in a "real" person-to-person setting. I think its a great approach for Kleenex and a good attempt to take some category whitespace in a commoditized product environment. The campaign goes beyond TV spots and appears to be a dedicated approach for the company to committ to the idea, with branded website, blog, and invitations for consumer participation all surrounding the campaign.

While a campaign for Kleenex may not be the most exciting or sexy creative out there, it was impressive to me to see some fresh ideas and new life in a category that often speaks about the same things, using the same approach, and trying to get consumers to think the same thing-- that their tissues are the softest and safest for you and yours. To me, getting at the root emotions and feelings that create a need for Kleenex in the first place is a great angle in and fresh use of emotional appeal.


Anonymous said...

Totally agree with you! The commercial is great, the song is fantastic and a perfect fit for the spot. Saw the UK version too where the song is sung during the entire ad. It's great! Kleenex has hit a homerun with this one like Sears did with Extreme Home makeover! Kudos to Kleenex!

Anonymous said...

Glad you liked the spot and the thinking behind it. Means a lot.

When we set out to come up with a campaign that - and haven't we heard this a million times! - ladders up to a more emotional terriotory, we were struck by the fact that Kleenex's emotional high ground is emotion itself.

The breakthrough came not from a focus group but from one of our Kimberly Clark Marketing Managers who said - "You know, when I see an emotionally powerful movie, if I don't have some Kleenex on hand, I won't let myself cry and I won't enjoy it as much."

Here was a vision of a product that wasn't just a snot rag - it was an enabler of what makes us most human. It would take care of the symptoms of emotion so we could feel more deeply and experience life more fully.

As planners we're often sucked into the 50s paradigm of problem solution advertising where Normalcy is the end all benefit for people - get back to being OK, regain control, don't be alienated by others, don't feel out of sorts. The temptation for Kleenex and brands like it is to position their products as BandAids(TM) that cover over problems (the yucky, abnormal, extremes of life.)

But what are those highs and lows if not life itself? And aren't the products we turn to at those times actually FACILITATORS of those highs and lows, enamblers that make those times not only more 'managable' but actually possible and often deeply rewarding?

The name of the stategy that resulted from this line of thinking was called "Let It Out" and the brief's single minded benefit was simply "be more human." Finally, the plannerly thought experiment we presented our creatives with was - "What if we set up shop a block away in Grand Central Sation, and invited people to take a break from their clenched and hectic routine to talk freely about how they were really feeling? Would people do it? What would it mean if they didn't? What would we find if they did?"

On their own initiative, our incredibly tallented creatives Jim and Richie took to the streets one weekend and did just that. Aided by a fantastic producer who became the first Good Listener and the killer Starrfadu "Let it Out" song they'd discovered on iTunes, they put together the most amazing proof of concept piece I've ever seen. And the result moved us and our clients deeply.

With powerful footage in hand of NYers in the cold and gray of winter letting it out, it was difficult to find a more powerful and authentic execution of the concept than the validation of the concept itself. And the campaign was born.

I'm so proud of my collegues at JWT for seeing this through. Emotion is the first thing that dies in committee, but they've managed to retain 100% of the energy, charm, and pathos of what made us fall in love with this campaign in the first place.

I've since moved on to the softer comforts of the West Coast to tackle what I consider a far less sexy category than facial tissues - cars! But the insights I've gotten from the LIO experience are invaluable:

- avoid the hero trap where you position your product as a savior and those who don't use it as abnormal
- seek to find the humanity at the heart of your brand
- look to dramatize the power of this humanity, not through artifice but through honesty
- celebrate the people who engage with your brand, not as ailing consumers, not as subjects on the other side of the glass but as fellow human beings

The result is a more creative form of planning and, hopefully, a more truthful kind of advertising that enriches the culture.


Anonymous said...

You have got to be kidding: the commercials have absolutely NO authenticity and therefore NO pathos. They are laughable. Then, I saw the "booger" commercial today, and almost fell out! That is disgusting, and this campaign will soon fall flat on its snotty face, as it should! Kimberly-Clark will see customers shun Kleenex for Puffs because of this vapid and foul campaign, I'm afraid.