So, it's come to this. Scrunch Or Fold. A mainstream TV ad that wants to kick-start a dialogue about how we wipe our arses. I suppose we had a foretaste of this with Dawn Porter's asswipe odyssey but that was a drop in the, er, ocean compared to this.
There's so much to be said about this: about how absurd it is; about where this kind of thing can be taken to in terms of extremes (which bog paper you use to mop up your spent ejaculate, perhaps). Or why Rob Brydon agreed to take on a job that directly aligns him with faeces in the minds of viewers. Seriously, go on, just imagine that: after five minutes of grunting and exhaling, Rob Brydon tearing off some Andrex toilet paper, reaching around to his hairy ginger ringpiece and smearing his poo around with it. Not a pleasant idea, eh? Well don't blame me - blame Andrex.
I have more: Why would anyone bother to join in with a witless social media campaign about how people clean their anus? What, exactly, are you going to do with that knowledge once you have it? And just imagine the poor functionaries that have to trawl through the social media replies as to how people interact with their own excrement. Normally I'd feel sorry for anyone in this situation but I kinda think it's fitting for the sort of people who ply their trade as the snake-oil bullshit merchants of social media marketing.
Fundamentally, this is a terrible advert - born of some dreadful, half-formed notion that social media has a part to play in encouraging people to discuss bog roll. People get interactive about stuff they like: media, food, gadgets. They do not like to get interactive about the contents of their bowels.
What can possibly go through the minds of people buying toilet paper? At the most practical level, something like: "Christ, I'm not paying that much on something I will literally flush down the toilet". Perhaps next, something along the lines of: "Were I to drag this paper across my arsehole, would it hurt?".
And that's it. Brands prosper here because they're present in your head, because of an association - and that's it. Not for any other reason. No meaningful brand loyalty, no appreciation of one over another because, let's face it, there's a glass ceiling to how pleasant wiping your arse gets (that is probably the last time you'll ever want to hear the words 'glass' and 'arse' in close proximity).
Does Andrex really think it's going to make any conquest sales here? To push into fresh, untapped new markets of bum-cleaners? To get the yoof onboard with Andrex-branded segments of perforated paper (aren't we supposed to be forgoing paper for digital - that'd be a hell of an app)? Perhaps the lucrative Middle Eastern markets, where they wipe their arses on cacti, will benefit from this fearless new campaign?
Look, it's like this. People need to buy bog roll. They don't buy it because they really like it. And, more than likely, the same goes for shitting into a toilet. A function, like breathing, sweating or shedding skin. However, defecation and rectums are a genuine taboo in an age when we tend not to worry about such things. There's a reason people don't tend to draw attention to their bowel movements; why they don't leave the dinner table, a meeting, the lads in the pub or the marital bed with a cheery "Just going for a shite!".
Vaseline isn't advertised on the proviso that it's likely to be smeared on hemorrhoids or used to lube up an anus as a prelude to a bout of buttfucking. Condoms aren't explicitly mentioned in terms of being pulled over erect penises and inserted into damp orifices, there to create what amounts to a semen reservoir. Idiot mags like Nuts and Zoo don't draw attention to the fact that lads will spray their jizz across the plastic breasts of TOWIE sluts on their pages. Canesten doesn't really flag up the fact that it's used to rub over smelly vaginas.
Why? Because there's absolutely no need. Everyone understands what they're for - and understands that there is no necessity to make those uses explicit. I wouldn't feel comfortable buying Vaseline if it had "GREAT FOR BUMMING YOUR MISSUS" writ large on the side. Similarly I'd feel dubious about plumping for a bog roll that had "HE'LL BE WIPING HIS ARSE WITH THIS" in big brown letters emblazoned on the side. There's a very good reason, seemingly forgotten, why adverts for sanitary towels and tampons have used blue-coloured water to represent menstrual blood for donkey's years - and why no explicit mentions of foo-foos are ever present. Neither will you ever see a disgusted mum hastily wrapping up a nappy full of the yellowy slurry that young babies often excrete in an ad, retching as she rushes to the bin.
It's the equivalent of drawing attention, in a social environment, to someone who has just spent longer than usual at the toilet. Loudly commenting on someone's body odour or an attempt at surreptitious wind-breaking. Publicly revealing that someone owns a voluminous collection of exotic pornography. There's nothing intrinsically wrong with any of these things, but they're generally not things that people enjoy the attention of others being drawn to.
We strike a deal with the people who provide us with medicines, palliatives, cleaning materials, pornography, contraceptives, sex and other things we may be embarrassed about buying: don't ask - don't tell. It's our little secret. They agree to skirt around the fact that our bodies require us to do things that we may not want to discuss and, in return, we agree to keep buying their wares.
With Scrunch Or Fold, Andrex has blown this dynamic wide open. The ad itself is horrible, inept and excruciating to watch. But the whole concept behind it all is so misguided, so wrong that it beggars belief. Whoever is responsible for this disaster will be whispering to Andrex about 'engagement' and 'positioning' - being 'at the centre of a conversation'. They should be forced to spend the rest of their career in Andrex's stool sample division.
It's all, fittingly, a pile of shit. Some will laud the scrunch or fold advert for breaking taboos and thinking the unthinkable - such things are routinely, unthinkingly, acclaimed in marketing circles. For some reason no-one at Andrex, or whoever produced this campaign, has pondered the fact that 'thinking the unthinkable' means, in this case, making people picture wiping a shitty arse with a piece of paper - while they retch into their cornflakes.
Worst campaign ever.
Scrunch Or Fold: Pre-emptive answers
Some rebuttals I expect I'll be forced to make:
Everyone's talking about Scrunch Or Fold! No they're not
But it's got people talking about it - that means it's been a success! This is a bogus argument
It's just a bit of fun! It isn't fun.
This will result in more sales! I'm not sure that's true - we know that some campaigns damage brands and sales (but see below).
But Andrex has a really strong brand! Exactly, why risk it on this grubby campaign?
More people are buying Andrex bog rolls than last year! Two answers to this one:
• Spending millions of quid tends to do that
• How many packs of Andrex can you buy with £3m?
Andrex has increased email sign-ups, Twitter follower and Facebook fans as a result on the campaign! Perhaps, but the value of such sign-ups are nebulous, depend on genuine engagement and are likely hard to leverage on the basis of such artifice.
I expect there'll be more in the comments. Bring em on.