Dawn ‘Oil Spill’ Ad Crowned Most Effective

The timing was sadly prescient for an ad from Procter & Gamble’s Dawn Ultra, with a cause-related message about how the dish detergent helps to save birds and other wildlife fouled by oil spills. The spot debuted on national TV April 7, just 13 days before the explosion occurred on the British Petroleum oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico that led to the ongoing environmental disaster there.

The ad, which features oil-soaked birds and marine mammals being bathed in Dawn along with a pitch to buy the product and help build P&G’s $1 per bottle donation fund to wildlife groups, topped the Ace Metrix list of the most creatively effective TV spots breaking in the second quarter. 

Ads for candy, mobile devices, games, appliances, autos, coffee and insect spray rounded out Ace’s top 10 ranking for the quarter.

Ace Metrix analyzes the creative effectiveness of TV commercials. Its proprietary software provides near-real-time reports on TV spots across all major categories, based on the impressions of a nationally representative sample of 500 consumers. The system evaluates variables such as persuasiveness and likeability across an array of demographic and geographic targets, but also asks panelists to provide their personal impressions of spots.

Created by The Kaplan Thaler Group, a unit of Publicis Groupe, the Dawn Ultra “Wash Away” spot scored 699 points (out of a possible 950). It was the first commercial with a cause-related message to top Ace’s quarterly rankings, and it was the fourth-highest testing ad measured by the firm.

That score was based on consumer responses gathered before the BP fiasco. In a follow-up test done late last month as oil from the company’s well continued to spew into the gulf, the results were even higher as the ad scored 734 on the Ace Metrix scale. (See also: “BP Still a Target of Public Ire.”)

“For many products that are perceived as commodities, impactful creative that taps into what consumers find meaningful elevates the product and the brand to a whole new level,” said Ace Metrix CEO Peter Daboll. In the spot, he said, “Dawn soap achieves a quiet heroic status by gently cleaning oil-soaked animals. The ad demonstrates the positive reaction consumers have to cause-related marketing when it is skillfully executed and interwoven with a product’s intrinsic features.”

According to P&G representative Susan Baba, the company has been working for many years “mostly in the background” with groups like International Bird Rescue Research Center and the Marine Mammal Center, donating cash and products (like Dawn) for wildlife rescue efforts. It was years ago that environmental groups discovered Dawn’s ability to effectively clean oil-soaked creatures. “We decided this was a good time for us to reenergize consumers around this cause and give them a very clear call to action and help them understand how they can help,” Baba said.

The timing of the ad was coincidental to the BP spill and tied more directly to this year’s Earth Day, said Marjorie Porter, global equity director and general manager on P&G at Kaplan Thaler. The strategy was to keep the message and the call to action simple, she said. “This was a way to bring [the cause-related effort] more into the public eye and get consumers involved,” Porter said, by doing something they do on a regular basis anyway — buy dish detergent.

Ace’s second-ranked ad for the quarter was Apple iPhone’s “Face Time,” which broke in late June and scored a 696 on the Ace Metrix scale.

Snack items took the third and fourth slots on the top 10 list. A spot for Mars Snackfoods’ Pretzel M&M’s placed third with a score of 690, while a spot for Wonka chocolate was fourth with 687.

Placing fifth was a Samsung refrigerator ad (685), while a Starbucks coffee commercial was sixth. Filling out the top 10 were spots for Off insect repellent, Apple’s iPad, Nintendo’s Super Mario Galaxy 2 and Infinity M.

Beyond assessing TV ads, the second quarter was a busy time for Ace Metrix. In May, Daboll joined the firm as CEO, succeeding co-founder Steve Goldman. Last month, Ace formed a strategic partnership with WPP. The agreement included a minority equity stake in Ace via WPP Digital.