Typically, an actress realizes that her immaculate suburban home has been fouled by the smell of cooked fish, her husband’s cigars or her teenage son’s gym bag. After she sprays air freshener, however, odors disappear, as evidenced by her ecstatic inhalations and, occasionally, by her being instantly transported to a flower garden or orange grove. Febreze, the Procter & Gamble brand, is turning its nose up at that approach.
The objective of the experiment
To prove that Febreze eliminates even the toughest odors but people had stopped believing our traditional advertising. From the insight that you can close your eyes but you can never shut of your nose we chose a different approach.
Here’s how it works.
1. Find the smelliest places in the world. We found a couch from the dump, a dive hotel and a disgusting restaurant in New York City. An abandoned house, a filthy kitchen, and an ancient thrift shop in Los Angeles. And finally a sketchy youth hostel in Buenos Aires.
2. Spray the place with Febreze.
3. Bring people off the street, blindfold them and ask them what they smell.
4. Ask them to remove the blindfold and enjoy how completely shocked people are to find out where they actually are.
Febreze really works so instead of the usual TV advertising we developed large-scale real-world odor experiments and invited people off the street to experience this for themselves. 6 Breathe Happy Social Experiments where conducted in New York, Los Angeles, Buenos Aires and Berlin reaching people on the street in very populated areas. The reactions we got were so convincing that we turned them into our new campaign. Febreze is now the fastest growing brand at Procter & Gamble and has just passed the one billion dollar mark in sales.
For all the freshening claims made by room deodorizer brands in commercials, the approach of the advertisements themselves can be pretty musty, following a predictable script.
In one spot, two women approached on the street in the SoHo section of Manhattan are led blindfolded into an abandoned section of a building, where they are seated on an old, torn couch that has clumps of dog hair. As two dogs dart around the room, they are asked by an off-screen interviewer to take deep breaths and report what they smell. One of the women says, “Light floral, lilac,” and “Like when you have fresh laundry.” The other adds, “Maybe even a little bit of citrus,” “a little bit beachy” and “wispy white curtains.” They are told to remove their blindfolds, and the squalor of the room registers on their shocked faces, with both saying, “Oh, my god,” before two members of the film crew approach them wielding Febreze. “Join us on Facebook for more experiments as Febreze sets out to make everyone breathe happy — no matter what,” says a voiceover, as the slogan for the campaign, “Breathe Happy,” appears on the screen.
“What we have done is put our products to the ultimate torture test,” said Jeff Pierce, a spokesman for Febreze. “If Febreze is so strong that it works in this dirty hotel room or on this gross couch, then it’s definitely going to work on my seemingly clean couch, blanket or any fabric in the home.”
Tor Myhren, President and Chief Creative Officer at Grey New York, said the impetus for the campaign came from a consumer focus group. “Someone said, ‘You can close your eyes, but you can’t turn off your nose,’ and that’s a brilliant insight,” Mr. Myhren said. “We said that’s a big, big, big idea that we need to bring to life.”
Members of Procter & Gamble’s research and development team were on the sets for the commercials, which were shot in New York and Los Angeles. “The R.& D. team would be there with their clipboards and they’d walk in and would say that they thought the malodor was there,” said Elena Grasmann, a vice president at Grey who attended the shoots.
After Febreze representatives sprayed the sets with the product, they, along with the director and representatives from Grey, huddled in a nearby trailer and watched the proceedings unfold on monitors. “We all sat there watching and we were anxious and then we were amazed,” said Ms. Grasmann. For the scientists, it was particularly “rewarding for them given that they worked on these products,” she said.
On Facebook, Febreze, which has more than 262,000 followers, will show additional video, including interviews with the subjects, and will solicit suggestions for odorous settings for future commercials.
Commercials for air fresheners tend to have “an almost Victorian aversion to the unpleasant,” said David Vinjamuri, author of “Accidental Branding” and an adjunct professor of marketing at New York University. Asked to review the new Febreze commercials, he said he was impressed. “You have a visceral reaction to these commercials even before you see the reaction of the subjects, because you don’t see those kinds of environments in advertising in general,” Mr. Vinjamuri said. “It’s a classic advertising setup in terms of showing a problem and solution, but in a much more credible format,” he continued.
“Breathe Happy is a first of its kind campaign in the air care industry, rooted in the Febreze brand purpose to give people the fresh air that they deserve and desire,” stated Jeff Pierce, P&G Febreze External Relations. “Following today’s advertising launch, we will spread Breathe Happy to people everywhere delivering unique moments at events and on Facebook, helping the world to Breathe Happy no matter what their surrounding conditions.”
Advertising Agency: Grey New York
Chief Creative Officer: Tor Myhren
Executive Creative Director: Per Pedersen, Noel Cottrell
Creative Director: Rob Perillo, Rob Lenois
Production Company: Station Film
Director: Sam Cadmam
Silver Lion and Bronze Lion for the Campaign