Every year Andrex reveals a new advertising campaign that makes everyone who sees it feel nauseous, just like when that vast radioactive cloud wafted over from Chernobyl and infected our sheep. First there was Dawn Porter trying to make people who had no interest in discussing how they cleaned their backsides, er, discuss how they cleaned their backsides. Helpfully Dawn popped up in the AdTurds comments section explaining that the reason she did this was for 'much more then £10K' proving, as someone else pointed out, that you can put a price on self-respect.
Not satisfied with the mere threat of making people chuck up their breakfasts, Andrex was responsible for floods of vomit surging through the streets last year with its Scrunch Or Fold campaign - so much so that David Cameron has had to invest billions of pounds in flood defences around the country in preparation for the next Andrex advert. The ad was responsible for a tsunami of negative feedback, yet this has obviously not been enough for whoever is chucking Andrex's cash around. There is always, it would seem, money in shit.
Still Andrex is not satisfied - not until we're all spending money on moist toilet tissue that costs around 30 times more per square metre (I can't believe I actually worked that out) than the usual bog roll we know and love. So another quirky, slightly saucy and utterly shameless young lady has been send out to ask strangers questions about their arseholes. I feel a little more sceptical that these are real people. Or, at any rate, people who are for real. The man at the end of one, sporting a face slightly more annoying than an alarm clock waking you up with Chris Moyles, actually describes Washlets as 'a game-changer'. Which they are, I suppose, if you think of passing fecal matter out of your backside the same way as you'd treat ten minutes of Candy Crush Saga.
Lessons have clearly been learned from last time around. This group seems a lot more on board with the idea of talking about their anal cleansing habits than when Dawn tried her hand - although they do repeat two buzzwords that Dawn mentioned a lot - 'clean' and 'fresh' - beamed in, no doubt, from a focus group's list of Things People Like. What's more there's a not-at-all-scripted bit about how washlets are not going to knack your drains, a common accusation around the time of the last campaign. Interestingly that's a direct contradiction to what water companies say. Finally, Andrex have disallowed comments from their Youtube page - a wise move I feel.
At the forefront of all this is Arielle Free, a some-time DJ and/or presenter person, who has this to say:
Can you believe people don't even know about Andrex Washlets? I used to think there was nothing more than just loo roll but how wrong I was! So I've been out spreading the word.
Jesus Christ. In all seriousness, what on Earth are we supposed to make of this if we take it at face value? A woman has taken it upon herself to go around the country to tell people about different ways to rid their arseholes of shit? There are two ads that I've seen. In both (one in Bristol and one in Manchester) Arielle claims she has just discovered the Washlets - maybe Andrex wipes her memory as well as her arse clean after the commercials - and then runs through a checklist of things she's been told to say for money to a group or people who may or may not be actors. Incredibly some of them eat cake while others discuss how they remove shit from their rectums.
At least when Porter did it the artifice was evident; with Arielle there's a queasy middle ground between fiction and fact where we're meant to believe that someone might care enough about the issue to meet groups of people around the country, send them away with washlets and grill them a week later on what has been occurring above their toilet bowls.
So, what are we left with. To be honest, a reheated campaign that was unloved two years ago. No doubt there's lots of noise about market share and new product and innovation and conversations. As I said before, if you throw three million big ones at any sort of campaign it's probably going to pay some dividends. Give me three million quid and I bet I can make people bulk-buy chemical grenades.
Anyway, here we are again. It's one of the more perfect evocations of creating an artificial perceived need with the end result being to churn the cogs of the market a little more. This is how our whole existence works, of course, but rather like a glitch in The Matrix, it's only when something goes so obviously wrong with marketing that we perceive it. Millions of pounds are being spent on trying to make you buy something no-one could ever need. Where there's brass, there's muck.