Ged Carroll

Dettol – back to work

Published: (Updated: ) in branding | 品牌推廣 | 브랜드 마케팅 | ブランディング, marketing | 營銷 | 마케팅 | マーケティング, meme | 模因 | 밈 | ミーム by .

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At the beginning of the month, Dettol launched a ‘back to work’ poster campaign appeared on the tube as part of McCann London’s Keep Protecting series of adverts for Reckitt Benckiser.

The ad campaign had been launched in July with out of home posters like this one celebrating a return to school and video spots.

Dettol keep practicing
McCann London for Reckitt Benckiser

Here’s what Ads of the World had as an explanation of the ad’s rationale:

Lockdown has taught us all to appreciate the little things in life we previously took for granted. As we move out of the lockdown phase, we are all at risk of forgetting the importance and impact of the other little things we have been doing to keep ourselves, our families and our community safe. To remind us of these, Dettol has launched a fully integrated behaviour change campaign ‘Keep Protecting,’ comprising TV, VOD, digital and OOH.

Ads of the World^
McCann London for Reckitt Benckiser

Online conversations featuring Dettol went up 2245%*. In terms of sentiment**:

Was the Dettol campaign successful?

Was the campaign successful? It depends. At the moment we don’t know how Reckitt Benckiser were assessing the campaign, or what they wanted to achieve.

Reasons for thinking that it was:

Dettol. Keep Protecting
Data* from Meltwater Social.The mini-peak that occurred on August 24th is unrelated to Dettol marketing efforts ***

Reasons for thinking that it wasn’t:

Dettol at Camden Town
Dettol ad in question at Camden Town tube station

The copy:

Hearing an alarm. Putting on a tie.

Carrying a handbag. Receptionists.

Caffeine-filled air. Taking a lift.

Seeing your second family. Watercooler

conversations. Proper bants. The boss’s

jokes. Plastic plants. Office gossip. Those

weird carpets. Face-to-face meetings.

Not having to make lunch. CCing.

BCCing. Accidentally replying-all.

Hearing buzzwords. Leaving early for

a cheeky afternoon in the sun.

Disinfect surfaces we use throughout the

day, so we can do it all again tomorrow.

The little things we do help protect the

little things we love. Keep Protecting.

McCann London for Rickett Benckiser

What about the craft?

My issues with the campaign are more craft-related. The call to action at the bottom made perfect sense when associated with the ‘back to school’ creative iteration of the poster. It makes less sense in the ‘back to work’ and ‘back to commute’ posters, where it has been used unchanged.

The language used in the ‘back to school’ poster would bring back emotive memories of school. The back to work poster evoked the ennui, awkwardness and embarrassing moments that Ricky Gervais skewered quite eloquently in the comedy TV show The Office.

There was also a clear comparison to Renton’s ‘Choose Life’ speech in Trainspotting 1 & 2

Original version from Trainspotting
Updated Trainspotting 2 version

This could have been done so much better. It would still have been controversial – instead much of the abuse has come at the expense of its mediocrity. I suspect that the ad was an unintentional troll.

I am confident that this wasn’t a Dominic Cummings-type of deliberate trolling. It wasn’t designed to stir up brand relevance amongst the general public at the expense of the work-from-home metropolitan elites.

What next for Dettol?

The account planning team and client service staff members at McCann London will be wrapping together much of the reasons and data I’ve suggested above into a positive narrative for the client. If they manage to pull that off; they may even try to use it for award entries next year.

Dettol is a well-loved brand in a relatively low-passion category. Everyone I know has a bottle in the cupboard under the kitchen sink with the cleaning supplies or in the first aid kit. It deserved so much more from the marketers at Reckitt Benckiser (UK) and copywriters at McCann London.

More FMCG-related content here.

Notes and references.

^ VOD means video on demand like Netflix, Hulu in the US, NowTV in Hong Kong or ITV Player in the UK. OOH means out of home. Poster adverts that could be on billboards, electronic Jumbotron type signage, trains, buses or taxis. They can be inside like the London underground (mass transit) posters or out on the street.

*All data quoted from Meltwater Social. I looked at data only in English from the UK. The sources for mentions that I selected were: Twitter, forums, blogs, comments, Facebook, Instagram, Reddit and YouTube.

** Machine derived sentiment, so assume that it is only 65-85% accurate

*** The mini-peak on August 24th was Twitter users sharing a meme about childhood in 1970s Britain. It associated Dettol with a simpler, if more deprived Britain. The original tweet that got things going said:

I was moulded in the 70’s…when ya school jumper was knitted by an intoxicated grandma…when ya bath had Dettol not bubbles…ya phone was a pissy smelling red was tucked in & couldn’t move….fish finger sandwiches & lard fried chips & I’d go back in a heartbeat ❤️

Mark Norris on Twitter

**** TikTok like other social platforms have issues with regards engagement metrics.

UPDATE: September 15, 2020 – YouGov surveyed the British public on each of the concepts in the copy and you can understand from the results why it went over so badly. TL;DR – People really don’t like their alarm, they don’t miss the smell of the office or even eating out for lunch and your work colleagues definitely aren’t your second family (PDF)