Yes, Procter and Gamble, makers of Tide laundry detergent, thinks lying is cute, and that Americans will run out and buy a product advertised as useful for assisting lies.
And who knows? Maybe they’re right. We certainly wouldn’t expect a corporation or an ad agency to see anything wrong with lying, since it is business as usual for them. They probably don’t even realize such messages are corrupting.
The new TV ad for Tide and its new “Acti-Lift” secret ingredient (It’s called “Closet Raid”; you can see it here…) shows the heart-warming saga of a teenage girl who trustingly asks her mom whether she borrowed a favorite green blouse. We see flashbacks of Mom dancing and partying in her daughter’s missing blouse, and then she answers her daughter by saying that the blouse “isn’t my style.”
Then the ad shows Mom secretly retrieving the blouse, which she had soiled during her nocturnal exploits, and using new Tide (with Acti-Lift!) to remove the stain. Later, her daughter is seen wearing the now-clean blouse, as the mother innocently asks where she found it. As if she didn’t know.
A mother uses her daughter’s property without permission, lies about it, and lies again.
I wonder if there are effective ways to sell soap that don’t involve endorsing lying to one’s child, or that won’t give children the impression that it’s completely normal and acceptable to behave this way. Commercials like this one are meant to depict normal, everyday Americans, and Proctor and Gamble not only seems to be saying that normal American parents lie to their kids for selfish reasons, but also that there’s nothing wrong with that.
I use Tide, or used to. No more. You can do what you want, but as for me, to hell with Acti-Lift. From now on, I’m a Wisk man.
It’s got “Stain-Spectrum Technology!”
(To read my more recent reflections on the controversy over this commercial and its significance, go here.)
(To read a more thorough critique of this commercial by someone who finds it incompetent and unethical, go here.)
UPDATE (12/28/10): For the record, I don’t see anything unethical about the latest Tide commercial, in which a father expresses his disapproval of his daughter’s super-short white mini-skirt by secretly wiping his hands on it, presumably to render it unwearable, and Mom washes the skirt with Tide, thus foiling Puritanical Dad’s scheme. The father’s conduct is sneaky and wrong, but at least it is motivated by concern for his daughter. How you feel about the rest of the drama depends on what you think is appropriate dress for young women, and how old you think the daughter is supposed to be. If she’s 22, I’d say the father is completely out of line. If she’s 15, however, the mother is insane.
The theme in these Tide ads seems to be that parents are incapable of acting more maturely and responsibly than their children. That may be a comforting myth for kids, but it sure is a strange attitude for the makers of a product that is mostly bought by grown-ups, who resumably don’t snatch their kid’s things and lie about it, and are forthright enough to question the propriety of an age-inappropriate skirt directly rather than secretly soiling it.