Ted Simon - Just a Marketing Minute

When Sex DOESN'T Sell - Method Pulls Viral Video Over Sexism Complaints

Sex sells (or so they say).  Except when it blows up in your face.  Here's an example of how that can happen despite what might have been good intentions.

I'm a big fan of Method Products. Love their positioning, their product quality, their mission, their packaging. Buy a lot of their products. I also admire how they have built a company around a clear, timely mission (green clean) and outflanked many of the behemoths in the process. All good.  But, nobody's perfect.

Method's viral video "Shiny Suds" that was "applauded by marketers at the Association of National Advertisers annual conference last month" (according to Ad Age) was pulled down by the company and its agency, Droga5, after complaints of sexism (including a vocal minority who went so far as to even condone rape).

I look at all this and have to say...okay, people on both sides...just a marketing minute!

First, to all the applauders. I'm with you to a point -- I think it is strategically and tactically brilliant for Method to align itself this way with the Household Product Labeling Act (requiring ingredient disclosure of cleaning products). It's a good thing for consumers and totally in line with Method's position. And, who can argue with using a viral video tactic to get the word out?

But, while I can applaud the strategy, the execution misses the mark. There are a thousand ways to execute the strategic idea in a clever, pithy, memorable manner...and they chose a bunch of leering bubble scum oggling over a woman in her shower? Huh?! If the consumer insight is that people should be concerned and/or feel threatened by the chemical residue left by many household cleaners, okay...find a better way to portray that than a naked lady. Sex does not, and should not, always sell. It's the "easy way" out.

As for the vocal minority...ok, I can agree that this may not be a very good ad (that's my opinion and I'm sticking to it). But, c'mon folks...I hardly think the good folks at Method are condoning rape. Guilty of a poor choice of execution?...I'd agree. Questionable taste?...okay, I'll give you that. Condoning rape?...I'm sorry, that's a biiiig stretch (and please don't derive any sexual innuendos from my choice of words...none intended!).

This is a great case study for all of us. In today's world the ubiquity and availability of social media channels to communicate our messages and move people to act are limited only by our creativity. At the same time, that creativity still needs to mind some long-standing principals, such as "honor the consumer." Otherwise, you end up with a vocal minority crying foul...or worse, rape.

P.S. I hope that Method and others keep pursuing strategies like this one - they demonstrate how creative thinking CAN be applied in the marketplace and I salute them for their past and continuing efforts.