Two fifteen-second spots for Tom’s of Maine toothpaste products which run together on some prime network buys. The first spot shows a woman walking out of a cabin, past a tent in the woods, then hiking down a trail and stopping to admire the dramatic landscape. You can see the Tom’s of Maine toothpaste and a toothbrush tucked into the back pocket of her jeans. The spot has a continuous voiceover which says. “The peppermint and baking soda in Tom’s anti-cavity toothpaste leaves your mouth feeling clean, not sweet. And the way we do business leaves the planet feeling better, not worse. Tom’s of Maine: Naturally, it works.” The spot ends with a package shot and the “Naturally, it works” tagline.
In the second spot, a woman brushes her teeth in the bathroom. A cat jumps up onto the vanity to stare at her. Then a dog bounces past her, while we hear “The calcium in Tom’s tartar-control whitening toothpaste leaves your mouth feeling fresh.” Then the camera pans down to her slipper-clad feet and we see a rabbit nestled between them while the voiceover continues, “And the fact that we don’t test on animals leaves your conscious feeling clean. Tom’s of Maine: Naturally, it works.” This spot again ends with a package shot and the tagline, though this time the cat is cleaning its paws on top of the toothpaste box.
From a brand positioning perspective, these spots are very well constructed. The basic brand premise, “Tom’s is natural and natural is better for you and everything around you (the environment, animals, etc.)” is very well paid off with simple but powerful visual imagery. The actors and the voiceover are both appealing and identifiable. The natural scenery in the first picture will be highly aspirational to the intended audience.
In addition, these spots are powerful because they are succinct. They get their message across in fifteen seconds better than many longer spots. They also stand out because they have no soundtrack or music and rely on the clear images to draw in the user. The choice of advertising medium is good here, too. Tom’s has a strong brand image among a narrow and very loyal group, but broader social trends are making that message more appealing to more people as brands like Burt’s Bees have shown. This advertising which is pitched perfectly to the brand faithful of Tom’s should have crossover appeal with a more mainstream audience already receptive to the message.
Brand managers tend to be ‘big picture’ people and they usually focus their efforts on getting the big things right. Tom’s marketing people and their ad agency made sure all of the big things went right with these spots. But history shows us that execution is at least as important as strategy and a few executional details prevent this spot from being outstanding.
The first is in an area that neither the brand nor the primary agency may have had a hand in. This is the choice to run these two fifteen second spots back-to-back in prime-time network television. This choice can be dictated to a company by circumstances (the network may require a :30 buy for a particular popular show) or by inattention. With larger, multibrand companies, it may be easier to pair up two different brands fifteen second spots in a thirty second block to avoid running two spots for the same brand together. It also may be that the task of purchasing airtime may have been relegated to a specialist agency which was able to get a better purchase rate for a single thirty than two fifteens or unconnected fifteen second blocks.
For whatever reason, though, this was a bad choice. These fifteens are extremely effective on their own and running them back to back cheats the second ad which does not significantly improve on the communication of the first. Spreading these spots out would have been a better and more effective choice for the brands.
The second issue is with the second spot, whose primary claim is ‘no animal testing.’ This is a reasonable claim for this audience and the spot does a good job of showing that animals are family members, and suggesting that you wouldn’t want to treat animals less-well than family members. The problem with this claim is that the product Tom’s is making the claim for is toothpaste. It is very understandable why testing cosmetics on animals or drugs may be objectionable to some people. These studies may involve vivisection and the social benefit may be dubious in many cases even for less morally absolute consumers. But toothpaste? Many pet owners watching this spot will be thinking – “They can come and brush my dog’s teeth anytime they want.” In fact, letting dog owners in particular know that the toothpaste is safe for their animals might be an added selling point to this group of consumers.
So while Tom’s makes a claim that may be important to their core users and appealing to other consumers, they chose the wrong product to make the claim with and thus completely undermine their intentions.
Branding Bottom Line:
Lily Tomlin said “I always wanted to be somebody. I should have been more specific.” Advertising, like life, is all about the details.