– 22 May 2013


Who’s tough? Who’s the roughest, meanest dude you can think of? Chuck Norris? Rambo? Hulk Hogan? If your answer was all three, say “Whoo-hah!”

And what do all tough guys need? Softness, of course, because when it comes to creating an advert to show how effective a fabric softener really is, only the toughest guys make the cut and the tougher you are, the softer you need your clothes to be.

That’s the message from Sta-soft’s new ‘tough guys’ print campaign that uses Sly Stallone, Norris and Hogan look-alikes made out of the softest cloth to drive home the contrast between what’s soft and what’s hard. All kidding aside, I’m glad to see a fabric softener brand go for something a bit cleverer (and a little less obvious) that the usual cute baby (or kitten) to illustrate its USP.

The cloth caricatures in the new Sta-soft ads were created by Shaun Hill of Says Who, a Johannesburg-based branding, design and illustration sta soft 1studio. The fabric versions of the world’s most popular ‘tough guy’ personalities are beautifully rendered through the use of different materials, and the clever use of light and shade which creatively adds to the depth of the ad. O&M is the agency behind this simple but oh-so-effective campaign.

The lack of copy is a notable feature of the ad. Everybody knows the brand; it’s not necessary to labour the features and benefits of the product that almost every South African has grown up with.

The simple Sta-soft bottle, with the pay-off line, “Softens even the toughest” is powerful in that it plays on the tough/soft dichotomy of the bold visual used in the ad. A subtle but clever variation is the use of different backgrounds to reflect the different scents of the product.

It’s not the first time that humour has been attempted in Sta-soft advertising. In 2010 Y&R created the “Love your clothes” campaign, which featured a superhero who couldn’t bear to remove his shirt, the Queen of England in an ‘I love NY’ T-shirt, and a few others. It’s probably one they would rather forget, as the humour in the images was often obscure and open to misinterpretation.

But this campaign is simple, striking and really works: the choice of iconic characters is quite obvious; after all, you don’t want people to be in any doubt, given the fairly abstract, mixed media method used. I must admit that for a moment I thought the Chuck Norris character was Desperate Dan – but maybe that’s just me.

I think the campaign has legs, and can be extended into other media, such as an animated TV commercial, art exhibition or even collaborative engagement with customers. To refresh the campaign, more characters could be adopted.

One criticism I have for the brand is that it still seems stuck in the conventional, ‘old style’ mode of advertising, and doesn’t seem to have gone digital. The ‘Facebook Generation’ is not limited to schoolkids, and even FMCG brands should have a social media presence. It’s not that print is dead—far from it—but there has to be more consumer engagement to build brand loyalty (even if you are the market leader). Housewives use Facebook too, you know.

Overall, the campaign is single minded and elegant in its simplicity, leaving no room for confusion in the consumers’ minds. It’s a bold, striking and strong message that hits home.

Ogilvy & Mather credit the following people for the campaign:
Creative Director: Louw le Roux
Creative Group Head: Andrew Pearson
Art Director : Darryn Rogers
Copywriter: AndileKhambule
Artist/sculpture: Shaun Hill, Says Who
Photographer: Jurie Potgieter
Client Service Director: Bianca Rogers
Account Director: TelanaBotes
Client: Marketing Director Colgate Palmolive South Africa, Del Levin

See the process shots here:

The Y&R 2010 campaign: