Pig-in-a-blog for Rexona

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By: Marina Natanova

The Russian blogosphere (ca. 2 million journals) is going crazy about the recent Rexona ad campaign. A new TV ad (click here to see video) together with a promo-site announced that Russian women… er… were less attentive to themselves than Polish or German ladies.

To cap it all, both the TV commercial and the site featured a stereotypical dirty animal (site closed now, but the screenshots can be found here – never mind the cyrillic, the pictures speak for themselves).

Rexona ads were always a bit near the knuckle (e.g. posters with gas mask in metro coaches: “You enter – all coach exits?”). Because of this, several bright executions did not find their way to the audience, as local authorities endeavored to be in line with European correctness. Nevertheless, its aggressive positioning and considerable advertising budget have made Rexona the №1 deodorant in Russia. Still, the question remains whether being so provocative can work for interactive campaigns as well.

A few days after the promo-site launch, several popular local bloggers posted entries full of sacred ire: “They offend our women!” And in the next couple of weeks, the virus spread:

  • This is outrageous! We must not tolerate it! We’ll never buy it any more, and will tell our friends to stop!
  • Boycott it, we’ve created a special web-site for it!
  • Boycott all their brands!
  • I have broken the bottle in our yard, see the picture!
  • I was proposed $500 to post a entry about this campaign into my blog. I refused, but according to my friend list, I was the only one to do it. (written by one of local LJ “thousanders”)
  • Stop re-posting this old stuff, it’s all planned and paid!

So did the campaign really go off the rails? To me, every coil of public anger, as well as the reactions of Unilever’s marketeers, appear planned.

There were articles in which “Company representatives kindly ask bloggers to remove boycott messages from their journals” (good publicity). A remarkably quick change of the commercial’s creative – in which the new TV ad features a balmy celebrity (resulted in the splash of “only glamour pigs use it” on the web). An official public claim to the Federal Antimonopoly Committee (newspapers guaranteed). Job finished, buzz created, and nobody of course admits that any damage was done.

Damage, however, was done, though most probably not directly to Rexona. I really doubt that its 14 million loyal consumers will switch away from the brand. But the company has trampled on the emerging Russian blogosphere, from which they and other advertisers could have benefited for some more time. Speaking Russian, “Silver spoons were found, but resentment remained”, meaning that Russian web-inhabitants will now react suspiciously to any brand reference in any blog. This while,  based on local say-so hatred of advertising, they’ve never been too trusting in the first place.

Reflecting on the positive experience of another provocative Unilever campaign in blog-marketing (everyone guessed it was paid, but nobody had anything against it), I would still assume that there was a mistake from the very beginning.

No, it’s not the comparison to pigs as they say now (that’s the second mistake). It’s the comparison to women from other countries. This is all about my compatriots: they’d rather smell than have their national pride offended. 🙂