Those Gawdaful Charmin Bears

Gather ’round, my children, for as it has been written in the prophesy, the time has come for Aunt Mary to speak the truth.

My philosophy in writing the Ad Storytime is that creative work is hard, marrying the ingenuity and psychology needed for advertising is harder and we should acknowledge this process. I try to praise the great and fun efforts and respectfully inspect the ones that miss the target.

But, Y’all, I can.not.stand those damn Charmin toilet paper bears.

This long running campaign is obviously doing something right because Charmin trots them out time and again, but if it were up to me it would be hunting time and Charmin bears would be in season.

I cannot imagine the hubris it takes to actually answer the smart-ass hypothetical of “Does a bear crap in the woods?” with “Yes! And he uses our product to wipe his butt.” How does an Adman walk into a pitch meeting with this in their wing? Were they drunk? Were the clients drunk? Was everybody just really super crazy drunk?

My loathing is three-fold:

1 It’s twee. Toilet paper is a pretty straight forward and honest product. Everyone needs toilet paper and really there’s not a huge difference from brand to brand, so I get the need to set your product apart, but the cuteness is too much. In a savvy marketplace that loves nothing more than irony, Charmin decided to go the baby talk route. Furthermore, implying the mother bear is checking her family for dingle-berries is gross. One ad even references skid marks. Not cool.

Mamma Charmin, the pinnacle of Helicopter Moms.

2. It smacks of building brand loyalty with kids. It feels to me that children are the target market here. It is an old trick to engage a population when they are young so they are comfortable with the product when they are adults (Joe Camel anyone?). It certainly is playing the long game here, hoping kids will have the warm fuzzies 20 years hence. I can also see parents buying Charmin while shopping with their kids because Junior thinks the dancing bears are funny. P&G even prints the bears on the Charmin packaging making it easy for kids to pick out and has created stuffed animals of the bears.

I acknowledge this may be a “Bitch eating crackers” point on my part. Building brand loyalty is a respectable strategy if it is done with care. For fun, here is an example of it not being done with care.


3. They replaced Mr. Whipple with this?

Sure, Mr. W. had his issues, including a fanatical need to keep housewives from squeezing his toilet paper selection, but he had heart and the commercial landed where it needed to. This here is some comfy toilet paper and a goofy slogan was born. I like to think he spent a lot of time on those TP pyramids and had witnessed one too many folks tipsy from cooking sherry use it as a soft place to land.

To prove they were once capable of awesome advertising, here is a great Charmin ad. Simple and classy, it’s an elegant appeal to a higher sense. This fine lady would never shake her booty in your face.

charmin flowers ad

With this  public reproach I’m sure the Charmin accountants have a better idea of why they are $10 short each month as Aunt Mary refuses to buy this product. You can do better, we have faith in you!



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