For the Olympics, an Ad Campaign with a Whiff of the Unconventional

By Newman, Andrew Adam | International Herald Tribune, May 11, 2012 | Go to article overview

For the Olympics, an Ad Campaign with a Whiff of the Unconventional


Newman, Andrew Adam, International Herald Tribune


TV spots for Procter & Gamble's Febreze air and fabric freshener feature Olympic wrestlers from Azerbaijan and are unafraid to conjure olfactory discomfort.

Olympic advertisers tend to highlight the grit and determination of athletes, but a Procter & Gamble brand is taking the unusual approach of pointing out that a team stinks.

In the olfactory sense.

Febreze, the air and fabric freshener, is sponsoring the Olympic wrestling team from Azerbaijan. A new television commercial shows four unitard-clad members of the team -- Haji Alijanov, Jamal Magomedov, Rafiq Huseynov and Sharif Sharifov -- wrestling and lifting weights in a shabby London gym.

"We did a Febreze experiment with the Azerbaijani wrestling team," begins a voice-over. "Can Febreze Air Effects defeat the smelly air in their gym for good?"

After the gym is sprayed with deodorizer, blindfolded volunteers are led in and asked what they smell as sweaty wrestlers grapple and lift weights nearby.

"A lot of flowers," a male subject says.

"It's on the zingy side of floral," says a female volunteer.

When the subjects are told to remove their blindfolds, they are shocked and amused.

"Victory over odors for good, both here and in your home," the voice-over says.

The new commercial is by Grey New York, part of the Grey Group unit of WPP. It will begin being shown internationally July 1, while online-only videos featuring the wrestlers began appearing on the brand's Facebook page Wednesday.

Last year, Febreze introduced a series of what it called "Breathe Happy" commercials that featured subjects recruited off the street for what they were told was a scent experiment and guided into odoriferous settings, including a dingy, abandoned building and a cramped restaurant kitchen piled high with dirty pans and dishes.

In every case, the blindfolded participants described pleasant- smelling environments nothing like what surrounded them.

Gary Coombe, vice president of global air care for Procter & Gamble, said that for this, Febreze's first Olympic Games sponsorship, it "wanted to remain true to the elements of the Breathe Happy campaign that had worked so well."

Febreze spent $113.7 million on advertising in the United States in 2011, according to the Kantar Media unit of WPP. It has a 55.4 percent share of the U.S. fabric freshener market (67.9 percent worldwide) and a 15.8 percent share of the air freshener market (6.3 percent worldwide), according to Euromonitor International, a market research firm.

The International Olympic Committee and Procter & Gamble announced in 2010 that through 2020, the company would be an official worldwide partner, meaning that any of its brands could sponsor athletes from any country.

Procter & Gamble, a 175-year-old company, has historically focused on burnishing its well-known brands, including Tide laundry detergent, Charmin tissue and Ivory soap. But in recent years, it has also promoted the corporate umbrella.

"We're finding that consumers want to know who the company behind the brand is and what they care about," said Marc S. …

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