Anyone who’s been on the Tube in recent weeks can’t have failed to notice Dettol’s latest marketing campaign; a variety of green posters with text seemingly imitating Irvine Welsh – albeit in a way that provoked the author to take to Twitter to voice his contempt.  The posters feature a series of short phrases suggesting some elements of office working that people enjoy, from face-to-face meetings to the more unlikely commuting, the boss’s jokes or ‘proper bants’.

The overall message – lost on many who mistook it for a Government return to work ad –  is that everyone should disinfect surfaces regularly to protect those freedoms – all read (in my head at least) by Ewan McGregor, with the opening bars of Lust for Life playing in the background.

The response on social media was scathing – criticising the company for wading into the office working debate in order to sell its products.  Dettol was slammed for cynically encouraging people to spend more time with others in a way which, naturally, leads to an increase in cases and, of course, the use of more disinfectant.

However, setting aside the timing and motivations of the campaign for a minute, you can’t deny the impact it has had.  It has divided opinion but sparked debate in a way few adverts manage.  Dettol’s name has been shared thousands of times, both by those making serious points and those looking to score a few quick retweets with a funny retort or Trainspotting GIF.  Critical or not, with a few well-placed Underground posters countless social media users have been reminded of Dettol’s place in the market at a time when everyone is choosing which disinfectant to buy.

Ultimately, the campaign was designed to attract attention, both with its structure and its content.  The ‘cringeworthy’ nature of it may have been criticised, but surely nostalgic references to the joys of early alarms, plastic plants and ‘those weird carpets’ were firmly tongue in cheek.  Due to the Twitter storm there are few adverts which have left such a strong impression on the public in recent months.  Certainly, the fact that they are still in place on the Tube, despite the backlash and the subsequent changes in government guidance, suggests that Dettol is reasonably happy with the response.  It’s certainly true that the brand is strong enough to withstand any reputational backlash from social media and online press articles, and the increased publicity they gained from it seems a worthwhile trade.

Maybe then, in one way the advice to those looking to make a splash should be to take Dettol’s lead and follow a few basic rules:

Choose an easily recognisable reference.  Choose a Twitter storm. Choose baiting the amateur comedians fishing for likes.  Choose thousands of impressions.  Choose a day of trending.  Choose increased sales.

Chris Tutton is an account manager at Camargue

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