A Commercial for Liars: Tide..with Acti-lift!

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.

110 thoughts on “A Commercial for Liars: Tide..with Acti-lift!

  1. Hey isn’t America 14 trillion dollars in debt and there are people in other countries struggling to survive. You all seem like reasonably intelligent people. IT’S A SOAP commercial. Why don’t you all go analize and disscuss something that matters. I just want to know what the name of that awesome song on this tide commercial.

    • I love this kind of comment—the height of irony. Hey! There are almost 2.000 posts here, almost all of them on things more important than Tide commercials. So why is THIS one the only one you read? And why do you assume that a blog on which .1 per cnt of the isues covered has as trivial interests as you do. ehen your paritcipation to date in 100% Tide obsessed? Talk about the pot calling the seagull black…

  2. What is the background music for the 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. I LOVE the music….what I CAN hear of it!!

  3. You just contradicted yourself, you say you do not find this commercial unethical yet you say the fathers conduct is morally wrong and sneaky. So which is it? You say if she is 15 it is bad to wear a mini skirt yet if she is 22 it’s okay? Look, you need to get your priorities straight. He is the parent, if she is 15 and he disapproves of mini skirts on his daughter then he should not be allowing it…..PERIOD!!! Obviously the parents are allowing her to wear it but it still morally and unethical what he did. Just like other previous Tide commercials that depict immature and irresponsible parents, it is just showing the world how parents are devious lairs and is teaching our kids nothing but to be the same with their own parents and likely with their own kids when they have them.

    • If you are going to debate, learn the basics. First, stop putting words in my mouth—I did not say “morally wrong” which is distinct from unethical. Read the terminology section. Second, there is nothing inconsistent in saying that a commercial isn’t unethical that contains a character doing unethical things. The Bible has people doing unethical things. An ad can be extremely ethical using a character’s unethical conduct to tell a story. What is wrong with the commercial is that it 1) depicts cowardly and dishonest conduct by the dad and 2) makes him out to be a fool as the mother conspires with the daughter to send her out dressed inappropriately. The song under the drama pushes it close to unethical territory as a family drama sending a bunch of socially unacceptable messages. It is still a lot better than the original green shirt ad..

  4. Well, my own impression of P&G is that the VERY FREQUENTLY LIE about all sorts of things, so for this company, depicting a mother lying to her child is probably normative. My advice: Don’t buy P&G brands!

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