Carex Offers a Handy Hygiene Reminder

Tic Tac Toe



To paraphrase ex-PM Harold Wilson, a week is a long time in pandemics. Whatever the sales benefits of a spike in demand for hand sanitizer, the marketers for PZ Cussons’ brand Carex will be as worried as the rest of us about the spread of COVID-19.

In a crisis, advertising can help or hinder. Public information is essential – getting info across in as accessible a way as possible, so that it’s actually remembered and acted on. That’s why the comms hero of the UK’s epidemic so far is 17-year old William Gibson, whose site lets people add song lyrics to the ubiquitous NHS handwashing instructions. With 175,000 posters generated in 3 days, using lyrics from Queen to Cannibal Corpse, it’s been a remarkable success at getting people to spread useful information.

But brands have a role to play, too. It would be easy – and disgraceful – for them to make ads which stoke panic or seek to cash in on people’s fears. However, an ad which encourages pro-social behaviour in a relatable and friendly way will be doing good, not harm.

Carex’ ads hit the spot. The brand has been running its “Mummy Diaries” tie-in campaign – their first TV work in 7 years – since September 2019, so this is no tacky exploitation of the crisis. In fact, it’s an edit of one of those September ads, which stresses parents’ roles in making handwashing a habit, and does so using a well-liked and very down-to-earth celebrity (Sam from The Only Way Is Essex and The Mummy Diaries). There’s a lot of right-brained betweenness and a sense of playfulness in the ad.

People have responded well to the campaign, with a strong 4.3-Star score for “Tic Tac Toe” – very good indeed for the personal care category, in which 4- and 5-Star scores are rare and generally reserved for the giant babycare brands. This is an ad which is striking the right notes at the right time, and might help reinforce hand-washing as a more general behaviour even when this crisis is behind us. With a short-term Spike score of 1.36 it would drive immediate sales too. Sadly, the brand doesn’t need the help right now