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In the most sweeping and ambitious advertising effort in the company's history, Unilever PLC launched a global ad campaign in 2003 that aimed not just to sell its new line of Dove brand products but also, in the words of Dove's U.S. marketing director, Philippe Harousseau, to "broaden the narrow and stereotypical view of beauty." Unilever was significantly expanding its Dove line from simple cleansing solutions (soaps, facial cleaners, and shower gels) to include deodorants, hair-care products, and more importantly, a whole new product category for the company: skin firming and lifting creams. To promote both the new products and the new idea of beauty, Dove and its ad agency, Ogilvy & Mather of Chicago, chose to use real women in the advertisements instead of models, and they selected women whose looks or weight were not typical for beauty-industry advertisements.

Dubbed the "Campaign for Real Beauty," it began as an outdoor campaign with billboards and mass-transit ads but eventually expanded to include print ads and TV spots, culminating in a 45-second spot that aired during the 2006 Super Bowl—all at an estimated total cost of over $100 million worldwide. The initial billboards in the United States showed six women, sizes 6-14, dressed only in white undergarments against a plain white background. (The rollout in each of the more than 10 countries where the campaign appeared followed a parallel course, with six women scouted locally and featured on billboards.) Equally important to the success of the campaign was Dove's interactive website, which offered descriptions of the product line and live discussion forums where women could discuss their feelings about the campaign.

By any standard the campaign was a smashing success. Not only did it help to increase Dove's global sales by 13 to 25 percent, but it also generated a phenomenal amount of media coverage. There was some backlash in the press, but the majority of critics found little fault with the campaign, and most lauded its willingness to use real women instead of idealized (and practically unattainable) icons of beauty. Industry awards were plentiful as well, making the campaign well worth the company's significant investment.


Dove soap emerged from product development research into ways of treating burn victims during World War II, and in the 1950s it was originally launched by Unilever in the United States as a moisturizing soap. The simple Dove soap bar was repositioned as early as 1957 as a "beauty bar" aimed at women with the spin that regular soaps would dry out their skin during bathing, while the Dove bar would not. From that point on such market differentiation and exclusive targeting of female consumers became the sole focus of the Dove brand. In addition, Dove set out to use clinical research to bolster its moisturizing claims, peppering its early ads with "dermatological studies" touting Dove as being milder on the skin than all other leading brands and using the tagline "Soap dries your skin, but Dove creams your skin while you wash."

It was not until 2001 that the Dove brand began to expand beyond skin cleansers into other personal-care categories, namely hair care, antiperspirants and deodorants, and finally, in 2004, "firming" lotions to tighten and smooth the skin. Unilever never abandoned its use of the term "Beauty Bar" for the Dove product, and the concept of beauty was the thread that connected its advertising for more than 50 years. It came as no surprise, then, that the conventional definition of beauty and the issue of a woman's self-image would become the thrust of Unilever's global campaign to introduce its new line of products aimed at women. Having spent half a century trying to associate its products with an abstract concept, Dove chose to take the bold step of redefining the historical notion of beauty (as depicted in advertising) by featuring women in its advertisements who looked radically different from the models traditionally used to promote beauty products.


The Dove brand of products had always been aimed exclusively at women. (Unilever had other lines of grooming products specifically for men.) The "Campaign for Real Beauty" did not try to appeal to a group beyond that which was already in the company's sights, but it did set out to attract even more women between the ages of 18 and 45 in a new way. With the introduction in 2004 of a new line of skin-care products, the company moved beyond mere cleansers and entered a new product category aimed at women who were dissatisfied with the appearance of their skin, whether it was too saggy, blemished, wrinkled, or just not firm enough. Such products were typically the domain of more upscale cosmetics companies, such as Clinique, Lancôme, and Chanel. Dove was not seeking to lure high-end customers away from these boutique brands (a stretch-mark cream from Clinique, for instance, sold for $95 in 2005, while Dove's Intensive Firming Cream sold for only $7.99); instead, Dove sought to reach its established customer demographic with a new product line and chose a controversial ad campaign to garner as much media and consumer attention as possible.

The new line of skin creams was aimed squarely at women whose assessment of their own skin's appearance was less than optimal—which, in practical terms, meant just about all women. To verify this assumption Dove, in conjunction with the research consulting firm the Downing Street Group, commissioned a study that surveyed some 3,000 women in more than ten countries to find out just how they felt about their own appearance. The extensive results, published as The Dove Report: Challenging Beauty, stated that, among other things, only 2 percent of women considered themselves "beautiful," while only 9 percent felt comfortable describing themselves as "attractive." The report's introduction said, "our vision is that a new definition of beauty will free women from self-doubt and encourage them to embrace their real beauty." Armed with this database of information about the self-images of women worldwide, Dove worked with Ogilvy to create an ad campaign that strove to subvert the expectations the public had about beauty in both advertising and daily life.


Dove's main brand competitors for skin and body-care products worldwide were Nivea (made by Beiersdorf AG) and Neutrogena (made by Johnson & Johnson). In 2005 Nivea's European market share was 20 percent; Dove's was 5.5 percent. U.S. market shares were more balanced among the three rivals. In the same year Nivea launched a pan-European media campaign, complete with a theme song, "New Days," by the up-and-coming German band Asher Lane. The song became a hit in Europe and was released as a CD single that was available for purchase from Nivea's website as well as at music stores; the packaging sported a sticker with the Nivea logo. The campaign's main TV spot depicted a wide cross section of people—young and old, male and female—in myriad situations (for instance, bathing, shaving, running, exercising, playing, or relaxing) casually using a range of Nivea products while "New Days" played. The approach was far more typical than Unilever's and far less controversial. With its established lead in European product sales, Nivea had no stake in rocking the boat. Dove, on the other hand, had little to lose.


In fall 2003, armed with the exhaustive information from The Dove Report, Ogilvy and Unilever began what would become a worldwide media campaign, starting with a series of billboards in the United Kingdom. The ads featured an unretouched photograph of six women of varying sizes and ages, wearing nothing but plain white bras and panties, standing together against a white background. Each woman in the ad was scouted from the general British populace; no modeling agencies were used. The ad boasted the tagline "New Dove Firming. As tested on real curves." The notion of "reality" suffused the entire campaign, and Dove made sure to emphasize the fact that the women in its ads were everyday citizens and not idealized beauties. Of course, the company selected rather attractive, healthy-looking women for its ads, even if they were a larger size or not as young as expected. The initial billboards caused a stir in the British press, eliciting praise from those who lauded Dove's use of real women as models and derision from those who either felt that the ads promoted an unhealthy body weight or thought the women were simply unattractive. Either way, U.K. sales of the featured firming cream doubled within a month of the ads' appearance.


As Dove expanded its "Campaign for Real Beauty" to more than 10 countries, it found through its research that the issues of beauty and self-image among women were nearly universal. The percentages of women in Japan, Korea, Vietnam, France, Germany, and elsewhere who rated themselves either "beautiful" or "attractive" were as low as those in the United States. Interestingly, however, the company had to modify its advertising approach to fit the social mores of each country. In Brazil, for instance, the group of six women photographed in plain white undergarments was found to be overly prudish by testing groups, and so the final ads pictured women in lacier and more stylishly colorful bras and panties. In China, where partial nudity was considered scandalous, the models were photographed in less revealing outfits and were not touching or depicted quite as playfully as their U.S. counterparts.

The campaign moved to the United States in 2004 with a similar use of billboards and outdoor signage, although in America the initial intent was not to sell a particular product but first to position Dove as a company whose main concern was breaking the molds of established "fashion beauty" imagery. Each billboard in this first phase featured an unretouched photograph of a woman whose looks or age were atypical for the beauty industry. The first woman selected to appear in an ad, scouted from a home for the elderly, was 96 years old. The text in the ad consisted of two words adjacent to two check boxes marked "Wrinkled?" or "Wonderful?" and was designed to prompt the viewer to think about the image and the concept of beauty. A 96-year-old woman was indeed wrinkled, but could she be beautiful too? Clearly Dove was sending the message that it thought so. Another billboard featured a plus-size model with the words "Oversized?" or "Outstanding?" Each ad in the initial series followed the same template, showing a woman who was either older, less thin, or less typically attractive than expected alongside a pair of words that viewers could mull over. The ads directed viewers to the company's website, where they could register their votes for either adjective; the subsequent poll results were tabulated on the site. This interactive component served to introduce people to the website and its various sections, which were aimed at stimulating discussion about the concept of beauty. The website was designed from the outset to be a cornerstone of the campaign, containing, along with information and images from the campaign, various forums for users to post their own feelings about their bodies, their lives, or the campaign itself. It was eventually expanded to include live discussion groups where visitors could share their thoughts with each other in real time.

Phase two of the U.S. campaign mirrored the British rollout, with six women scouted from locations ranging from a coffee shop to a college campus. Again, all six women were sizes 6-14 and were pictured standing together in plain white undergarments against a white background. Each was smiling, some were leaning on one another, and all appeared to be having a good time. Each was in her 20s. The image of all six women appeared simultaneously on billboards and mass-transit ads in most major U.S. markets, including Chicago, Miami, Boston, Atlanta, New York, Dallas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. The image eventually appeared as a print ad in national magazines with the same "tested on real curves" tagline as well as text that stated, "Let's face it, firming the thighs of a size 2 supermodel is no challenge." The ads caused an even bigger sensation in the media in the United States than they had in Great Britain. Naysayers were few, although some found fault with the firming product itself, debunking its effectiveness. Others took issue with Unilever's mixed messages. While it used its Dove brand as a vehicle for transformative change in the ways that women and beauty were regarded in advertising, one of its other product lines, Axe deodorant, was being promoted with ads whose theme was sexually provocative and featured thin, attractive, scantily clad models fawning seductively over men who were presumably wearing the Axe product. In any case, the enthusiasm about the use of real women in the Dove ads led the six women to be interviewed on high-profile TV programs such as The Today Show and to appear on the cover of People magazine.

Dove continued its crusade to examine, redefine, and boost women's self-image in relation to beauty and body shape through its website and through its philanthropic efforts. To this end, in conjunction with the Girl Scouts of America, Dove helped fund (with an initial donation of $3 million) a program called "Uniquely Me!" that was designed to foster self-esteem in girls aged 8-17. In addition it created its own Dove Self-Esteem Fund for the same purpose. During the 2005 Super Bowl Dove ran a commercial not for its products but for this program, spending $2.5 million for the spot, hoping that it would both encourage support for the Self-Esteem Fund and continue to bolster the understanding of Dove's commitment to improving the self-images of women. Of the decision to promote the Dove Self-Esteem Fund rather than a particular product during the most expensive advertising time on television, Philippe Harousseau, U.S. marketing director for Dove, said, "It's time to free the next generation from these [beauty] stereotypes and give girls the tools they need to discover their own definition of beauty."


Historically, what was considered beautiful or attractive had more to do with scarcity of resources than any other factor. In times past, when rich foods were less plentiful, being overweight was a sign of high status—it meant a person was not only eating well but could afford to do so; it was the poor who were underfed and thin. By the second half of the twentieth century, with the advent of corporate farming and cheaply made, fattening foods, anyone could "afford" to be fat, and thinness became a sign of status. The new ideal, one difficult to attain even for the wealthy, was to be ultrathin. Signaled in 1966 by the supplanting of robust icons of beauty such as Marilyn Monroe by the supermodel Twiggy—who stood 5 feet 7 and weighed only 91 pounds—beautiful came to be synonymous with unnaturally thin and free of body fat. In 2005 the average American model was 5 feet 11 inches tall and weighed 117 pounds, while the average American woman was 5 feet 4 inches and 140 pounds. Obesity had transformed from a sign of status to a social stigma, signifying a lack of self-control and the inability to afford high-quality, healthy foods.


Dove's gamble to create controversy by attempting to redefine the concept of beauty paid off in spades, and the value of the resulting media coverage far outweighed the financial costs associated with the campaign itself. According to Unilever's internal research, the media coverage generated by the campaign was worth 30 times more than the paid-for media space. Dove's global sales rose 25 percent in 2005, thanks in large part to its advertising blitz. In Asia sales increased 26 percent, while Dove's U.S. sales increased by a total of 13 percent in 2005 over the previous year. Based on this success, Dove planned to roll out three new product platforms in 2006, including new skin-toning creams, advanced hair-care products, and an expanded line of its skin-firming lotions, all advertised with the same paradigm-inverting use of real women instead of models.

The campaign picked up numerous ad-industry awards, including the Grand Prix at the 2005 European EFFIE Awards (a prestigious advertising-awards program hosted by the European Association of Communication Agencies), a Gold Euro EFFIE in the Toiletries and Beauty category, the Best of Show award at the 2005 Canadian Media Innovation Awards, and the Rethink Pink! Best Marketing Award for 2005. (The Rethink Pink! Conference, held annually in the United Kingdom, focused on marketing to women.) In addition, the advertising-news magazine Campaign named Dove its International Advertiser of the Year.

The impact of Dove's "Campaign for Real Beauty" could be seen in the trail of imitators it left in its wake. In 2005 the sportswear company Nike released a series of print ads featuring real women by using photographs of body parts (thighs, buttocks, arms, shoulders, legs, etc.) with accompanying text in which the woman in the photograph frankly discussed her features. A sample tag-line: "My shoulders aren't dainty or proportional to my hips. Some say they are like a man's. I say, leave men out of it." Also in 2005, cosmetics giant Revlon chose 58-year-old actress Susan Sarandon as a model and spokesperson. Both Nike and Revlon followed Dove's lead, using either real women or atypical women to help sell their products. While the trend was never destined to catch on industry-wide, there was no doubt that Unilever and Ogilvy steered Dove into advertising territory worth emulating.


Brothers, Joyce. "Beauty Is No Longer Exclusive Domain of Magazines and Films; Dove's 'Campaign' Ads Are Raging Success because They Are Aspirational, but 'Doable.'" Advertising Age, August 1, 2005, p. 14.

Garfield, Bob. "Garfield's Ad Review: Women May Be 'Real' but Product Is Baloney." Advertising Age, July 25, 2005, p. 53.

Howard, Theresa. "Dove Ad Gets Serious for Super Bowl; 'True Colors' of Real Beauty Part of Self-Esteem Message." USA Today, January 12, 2006, p. B1.

Mills, Dominic. "Dove's Commitment to 'Real Beauty' Is Only Skin Deep." Daily Telegraph (London), January 18, 2005, p. 34.

Orbach, Susie. "Fat Is an Advertising Issue." Campaign, June 17, 2005, p. 26.

Prior, Molly. "Dove Ad Campaign Aims to Redefine Beauty." Women's Wear Daily, October 8, 2004, p. 18.

Vranica, Suzanne. "The Advertising Report: Dove's Curvaceous Campaign Tries to Renew Brand's Passion." Wall Street Journal, October 5, 2005, p. B3.

Wolf, Naomi. The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used against Women. New York: Anchor Books, 1992.

                                         Jonathan Kolstad



In 1998 Unilever PLC subsidiary Lever Brothers, makers of Wisk laundry detergent, launched a new advertising campaign with the tag line "Do It Once. Do It Right." The primary element in the campaign, created by J. Walter Thompson (JWT) USA in New York, was television commercials. In one spot a woman's voice announced "Wisk presents the ten thousand million things we have to do." There followed a series of hilarious scenes with laconic titles, provided by the voice-over, such as "Locate stuff," "Prevent osteoporosis," and "Save the planet." After this litany, the voice-over presented yet another thing women had to deal with in the course of their busy workday: "Then we still have to do the laundry. Really well. Good thing Wisk has a targeted cleaning system. Now everything you wash gets done right the first time. Do it once. Do it right."

Bob Garfield of Advertising Age lauded the new spot, which he called "witty, refreshing, thoughtful." The commercial was particularly impressive, Garfield wrote, in light of Wisk's past history as a brand name that "evokes painful memories of unbearable shrillness, obnoxious and demeaningly stereotyped gender roles." He was referring to Wisk's "Ring-around-the-Collar" commercials from the 1970s.

Despite—or rather, precisely because of—the fact that many viewers found the "Ring-around-the-Collar" ads irritating, the earlier campaign proved one of the most successful in history. It had earned a place among Advertising Age's top 100 campaigns of the twentieth century and helped Wisk become one of the leading brands of laundry detergent. This in turn helped pave the way for the triumph of liquid brands, such as Wisk, over old-fashioned powdered detergents. The 1998 spots helped maintain Wisk's position among leaders, and assisted in Unilever's resurgence against its primary competitor, Procter & Gamble (P&G), whose Tide brand had long held the top spot.


In the early 1950s Lever Brothers introduced Surf as a detergent to compete with Tide, which debuted in 1946. Although Surf established a strong market position, it did little to shake Tide's hold, so in 1956 Lever Brothers brought out Wisk, the first heavy-duty liquid detergent. Its uniqueness made Wisk a significant contender almost from the start and quickly earned it a market share of 4.2 percent, despite the fact that the new brand cost nearly twice as much as most powdered detergents. But by the mid-1960s, as the novelty of liquid detergents began to fade, so did Wisk's position. With less than 3 percent of the market in 1967, the company decided on a new strategy. Thus was born "Ring-around-the-Collar," the creation of James Jordan.

In 1968 Jordan, who went on to establish Jordan, McGrath, Case & Taylor, was a copywriter with Batten, Barton, Durstine & Osborn (BBDO). "It took about a minute and a half to write that commercial," he later told Advertising Age. "And the rest was history." Originally, Lever Brothers had not been enthusiastic about the spots, which focused on the dirty rings left on shirt collars by less-than-effective brands of laundry detergent. But the commercials, involving embarrassing situations in which homemakers were shamed by public exposure of "ring around the collar" on the clothes of family members, gained huge exposure for Wisk.

"It was the first time a liquid detergent dramatized the product's cleaning benefit," wrote Robyn Griggs in Advertising Age, and largely as a result of the spots, Wisk became the first Lever Brothers brand to sell 1 million cases a year. It emerged as the leading liquid detergent in the United States, and with an 8 percent share of a highly segmented market, it occupied the number two slot overall, behind Tide. Yet in 1987, the year Wisk dropped "Ring-around-the-Collar," new Liquid Tide knocked Wisk out of second place.

In 1989 Lever Brothers moved its advertising account to JWT, which assigned copywriter J. J. Jordan—ironically, the son of James Jordan—to the account. Although the campaign was new, the approach proved much the same as that of "Ring-around-the-Collar," using concepts of shame and embarrassment, albeit presented in a humorous light. In one spot, an actor was splashed with mud while those around chided him with "tisk, tisk, tisk." A voice-over then responded with "Wisk, Wisk, Wisk."


Despite the many changes that had occurred in the social fabric of American life since the introduction of Wisk in the mid-1950s, the focus of its marketing remained on women. Even though a large portion of America's female population worked outside the home, typically it was still women—whether married women with outside jobs, homemakers, single mothers, or single women—who were responsible for the laundry in their households.

Feminists might have considered the old "Ring-around-the-Collar" approach demeaning, as Garfield suggested; by contrast, the "Do It Once. Do It Right" campaign two decades later paid tribute to the many roles women are required to perform. In place of shame, a staple of advertising geared toward women from the earliest days of modern marketing, the new campaign offered an attitude of pride, encouraging women to feel good about their ability to succeed at a wide variety of tasks.

Discussing the change in Wisk's approach, Garfield asked, "What if [shock TV talk show host] Jerry Springer hosted a civil, witty round-table discussion that commenced the end of gratuitous sex and violence on TV?… What if the ghost of [ineffectual 1930s British prime minister] Neville Chamberlain appeared at the United Nations, admonishing the world to stop the Serbs before it is too late? It would be ironic, that's what, because these people are too identified with ugly events to be imagined transforming from monster or coward or scapegoat to hero." Yet Wisk had effected precisely such a transformation with "a striking new spot that speaks to busy launderers with candor and charm."


Detergents and racing may not seem like an obvious combination, but Wisk managed to bring the two together for a 1999 promotional campaign in the southeast. During the period from March 16 to April 30, some 600,000 specially marked boxes of Wisk contained in-box premiums—die-cast replicas of historic race cars. Whereas typically 50 percent of Wisk retailers in an area participate in a promotion, the race-car campaign, supported by sales incentives, radio, print ads, direct mail, and in-store displays, enjoyed 85 percent participation. The campaign, spearheaded by Championship Group in Atlanta, doubled or tripled Wisk market share in the area during the period of its run. Total cost of the promotion was less than $500,000.


The market for laundry detergents was divided not only among many brands, but also among several types of detergent. As Tide was the first significant powdered brand in 1946, so Wisk a decade later became the first major liquid detergent. With the introduction of Liquid Tide in the mid-1980s, Lever Brothers responded by bringing out Advanced Action Wisk, and the company continued to create newer varieties of the brand to compete with P&G's market leader.

But the early days of laundry detergent's history also saw the introduction of what was then a much more obscure phenomenon: concentrated powders. The first brand in this category was probably SA-8, a creation of the Amway Corporation marketed primarily by direct sales in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The first mass-market concentrate, however, appeared in 1980, when Colgate-Palmolive introduced Fresh Start.

Fresh Start proved to be ahead of its time, but a decade later, in the early 1990s, concentrated powders began to take away market share both from regular powders and from liquids. In response, Lever Brothers introduced Wisk Power Scoop, using advertising built around the sort of scientific claims typical of the 1950s. The company promoted the new product as "an entirely new class of enzymes specifically designed to dislodge and dissolve oily dirt and stains." Power Scoop was "concentrated to the theoretical limit of density," advertising claimed. Yet then-Lever Brothers president David F. Webb, discussing the concentrated quality of the product with Advertising Age, used language familiar from the 1960s or early 1970s: "Small is beautiful," he announced, referring to the reduced packaging required for Power Scoop.

Tide and other powdered brands moved to concentrates, but overall there was a trend in favor not only of concentrates over traditional powders, but also of liquid over powder. By 1999 liquid detergents, despite their higher prices, for the first time exceeded sales of powders. The key players remained Unilever and P&G—with the latter still in the lead. P&G, with Tide, Cheer, Gain, and Era, controlled almost 54 percent of the U.S. market, while Unilever, with Wisk, Surf, and All, held a 19 percent share.


In June 1998 Lever Brothers presented the "Do It Once. Do It Right" campaign, which primarily centered around a single television spot. At the opening of the commercial, a woman's voice announces "Wisk presents the ten thousand million things we have to do every day." First among these is "Locate stuff," accompanied by a shot of a woman reaching under a bed, searching for something. There follow a series of other tasks, each with an accompanying dramatization—all of them decidedly tongue-in-cheek. "Prevent osteoporosis" shows a woman sitting astride a cow and balancing a glass of milk on her head. Under the spoken heading "Conquer flab," another woman is shown jogging furiously behind an ice-cream truck. Next, the voice-over announces "Train dog," and this time no woman appears, only a Labrador retriever balancing a model train on its head. Another segment, "Control frizz," is a shot of a woman with birds nesting in her hair.


In early 1999 Forbes reported on the resurgence of Unilever's soap division, thanks in part to the efforts of executive Niall FitzGerald. One of FitzGerald's most trying experiences, according to Deborah Orr of Forbes, was a 1994 scandal surrounding the company's Persil Power. The problem with the detergent, marketed in Britain, was not its inability to clean but rather its tendency to clean too well. Hence as Orr noted, "the British press had a field day—'It's Official! Persil Can Rot Your Knickers'."

During this difficult time, FitzGerald had a pivotal experience when he gathered 30 Unilever executives in a board room and asked how many did their own laundry. "'Not one person raised a hand,' he says with amazement. 'There we were, trying to figure out why customers wouldn't buy our soap—and we didn't know the first thing about how it was used' That taught FitzGerald a lesson he heeds to this day: Never lose touch with your customer." In the end, FitzGerald elected to discontinue Persil Power, a move that meant a loss of several hundred million dollars in the short run but that ultimately served Unilever's long-term aim of gaining market share against Procter & Gamble and others.

The duties become ever more lofty as the spot progresses. The next one is "Remind kids of family infrastructure," which features a scene of a child playing before a portrait of the parents dressed in the uniforms of dictators. Next to last is "Save the planet," a serene tableau with a woman standing before a sky filled with stars. Finally the commercial comes to its central theme. "Then," the voice-over announces, as though to say "After all this", "we still have to do the laundry. Really well. Good thing Wisk has a targeted cleaning system. Now everything you wash gets done right the first time. Do it once. Do it right." During the week of September 7 to 13, 1998, Lever Brothers and Wisk held a position among the top 50 brands advertising on network prime-time television, with 11 spots on ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, UPN, and WB.


"What's so marvelous about this ad," wrote Garfield, "is how it recognizes the responsibilities, concerns, and vanities of the busy 1998 woman without pandering or idealizing—or going into an angry tirade." He declared the spot "endearing, self-deprecating, and above all, knowing about the semi-liberated American mom." As Garfield noted, Wisk had come a long way from the days of its famously irritating "Ring-around-the-Collar" spot, and although the new ad proved a critical success, it came at a time when Unilever faced ever more stiff competition from P&G. So even though Unilever experienced gains in sales of its liquid detergents—not only Wisk but All and Surf—during 1998, they did not offset losses in sales of powdered All and Surf. For the 52-week-period ending November 28, 1998, the company posted gains of 14.8 percent in its liquid detergents but losses of 19.6 in powders. P&G, by contrast, lost 10.9 percent in powders and gained 23.6 percent in liquids.

As Pamela Sauer related in Chemical Market Reporter, "the issue in 1999 for the U.S. laundry detergent industry will again be the battle of liquid versus powder." According to a March 1999 report in Brandweek, P&G was about to launch a new effort to "revitalize the slowly dying powder laundry detergent category" with the introduction of new Tide and Cheer product extensions, priced low to contend with Wisk and Surf. This would be accompanied by a $30 million advertising budget. At the same time, industry publications hailed the resurgence of Lever Brothers as P&G's leading competitor—an indication that the fierce ongoing battle between the two companies would continue into a new century.


Bittar, Christine. "P&G Sets Anti-Fade Plan for Ailing Powder Detergents: New SKUs." Brandweek, March 22, 1999, p. 4.

"Breaking: Wisk: Nobody Knows the Trouble." Advertising Age, June 1, 1998, p. 10.

Freeman, Laurie. "Wisk Rings in New Ad Generation." Advertising Age, September 18, 1989, p. 1.

Garfield, Bob. "Wisk Blots Out Stain of 'Ring Around the Collar,'" Advertising Age, June 8, 1998, p. 53.

Griggs, Robyn. "Irritation Tagline Rings True for Wisk." Advertising Age, March 29, 1999, p. C41.

"Lever Intros Whisk HE for High-Efficiency Front-Loaders." Brandweek, April 27, 1998, p. 8.

Orr, Deborah. "A Giant Reawakens." Forbes, January 25, 1999, p. 52.

"Reggie Bronze." Brandweek, March 29, 1999, p. R22.

Sauer, Pamela. "Finding the Profit in Liquids." Chemical Market Reporter, February 1, 1999, p. FR-3.

Thurm, Samuel. "Ten Who Helped Build N.Y.'s Sold Foundation: Creating a Washday Legacy Via 'Ring Around the Collar,"' Advertising Age, January 27, 1997, p. C12.

Walsh, Kerri et al. "Soaps and Detergents: Sharing the Risks and Rewards." Chemical Week, January 27, 1999.

"A Weekly Ranking of the Top 50 Brands' Advertising in Network Prime Time." Mediaweek, September 28, 1998.

                                            Judson Knight

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