An elderly woman's deathbed may seem a strange place from which to deliver a message about bathroom fixtures. But that's the setting in one of three new spots from GSD&M, the latest ads in the ongoing "Bold look of Kohler" campaign that break Feb. 14 and tout the high-end tubs, sinks and faucets for their interior design qualities as much as their performance benefits.
The deathbed scene is set in Italy, where the woman, speaking Italian, reassures her family that she has lived a full and happy life. Her "Last Words," as the spot is called, are translated into subtitles at the bottom of the screen. "Don't cry for me children. I've had a long and happy life. I've done everything I wanted to do," she says as the camera pans trophies and photos of her on the ski slope, in a World War II bomber, on a fishing trip and in exotic locales.
"I've experienced it all," she says as a priest and a family member turn to a nude painting of the woman in her younger days. As she begins to speak again, she looks out the window to a home across the street where a woman in a bathrobe is opening her window. The neighbor sits on the rim of a tub (a Sok Effervescent Bath with Chromatherapy from Kohler), drawing her hand through the water. Captivated by the image, the dying woman apparently realizes that she has missed that experience. "Damn!" she exclaims, just before her head hits the pillow for the last time. As the image fades out, the family can be heard crying, "Mama!"
The "Damn" version of the spot will run only on cable. A version for network TV has the dying woman's last word as "Oh!," said agency account director Marianne Malina. "That's the reality of dealing with a G-rated world out there," said Malina, who admitted that the "Damn" version was the original.
The latest work follows Kohler's longtime strategy of positioning its fixtures as elements of personal expression in an effort to set it apart from more straightforward competitors such as Moen and American Standard. The agency felt that the poignancy of the spot, along with its mildly humorous climax, made the use of the character's death appropriate. "It's all in the framework you use it in," Malina said. "It encompasses great longing with really subtle moments."
Omnicom's GSD&M in Austin, Texas, won the Kohler account four years ago and has employed unusual tactics before for the Kohler, Wis.-based client. One of the most noticed spots in the "Bold moments" series featured a blind man who explores a Kohler-equipped bathroom at a friend's party. When a partygoer talks about how beautiful the house is, the blind man says, "You should see the bathroom." For that, GSD&M earned an award from the National Association for the Blind.
A second spot breaking next week features two "paranormal experts" who come to a woman's home to investigate flying objects, including her child and husband floating in their chairs in the kitchen. As the experts become alarmed, they ask the woman, "Are you sure you want to stay in this house?" The woman looks at the Kohler-ized bathroom, pauses, then says, "Yes! Now get to work."
Spending on the campaign was not disclosed; Kohler spent about $30 million last year on measured media, according to Nielsen Monitor-Plus.