‘It’s a Tide Ad’ Once Again as Super Bowl Campaign Returns for Thursday Night Football

It's as meta as ever, but reactions are mixed this time around

'We have intentional cleanliness on the field, resulting in a Tide ad.' Tide
Headshot of T.L. Stanley

Eight months after invading the Super Bowl, P&G brought back its memetastic hit campaign, “It’s a Tide Ad,” for Thursday night’s matchup between the New York Giants and the Philadelphia Eagles.

This time around, Fox network commentators Joe Buck and Troy Aikman anchored the meta ads from Saatchi & Saatchi New York, which also made referees, sideline officials and both teams part of the laundry detergent’s recurring gag.

Though the faces were different—no David Harbour, save for a quick appearance on Twitter—Thursday’s night’s revival did bring back a hallmark of Tide advertising in the past two Super Bowls: embedding their ads so deeply in the game, it’s hard to tell where reality ends and Tide ads begin.

The wait of more than half a year was necessary, says Paul Bichler, the agency’s executive creative director, to “give the campaign a little breathing room—and we wanted to bring the audience something truly rewarding without overworking the idea.”

So did they deliver? Real-time response was mixed, but watch the spots and judge for yourself:

In “Mic’d Up,” viewers get a peek into the Eagles huddle for an inspirational speech from Malcolm Jenkins to his teammates. “They think they’re on their home turf, but this ain’t New York. It’s New Jersey,” he said. “And nobody’s got better jerseys than us. They’re green. They’re white. They’re so clean they might as well be a Tide ad.”

And for “Clean Call,” a referee on the field calls “intentional cleanliness” on two spotless players, also singling out “chain gang” and “oversized microphone guy” on the sidelines, along with a spotless Giants’ kicker.

Buck and Aikman had thrown from their live commentary to the pre-taped ad so that it looked like part of the action. Until, of course, the actor-referee didn’t throw a flag on the play or penalize anyone but, rather, complimented them for “looking good!”

Procter and Gamble, a longtime NFL sponsor, has been scouting for “big engaging moments” to trot out the award-winning campaign again, said Amy Krehbiel, associate brand director at P&G’s North American laundry division. “We’re always looking for exciting ways to connect and have it feel seamless to the viewer.”

The Thursday Night Football appearance is just the beginning, she said, though neither the brand or the agency would give details on when or where “It’s a Tide Ad” will appear in the future. The element of surprise, after all, is key to the humor.

The original version of “It’s a Tide Ad” won coveted Black Pencil at this year’s D&AD Awards, a Grand Prix in the film category at the Cannes Lions and also took home a Titanium Lion recognizing work that advances and expands the creative industry. Cannes judges called it a clever, perfectly executed idea that put a refreshing spin on a traditional TV media buy.

In the original Super Bowl takeover, Stranger Things actor David Harbour popped up in several intentionally cheesy, fourth-wall-breaking spots, basically hijacking much of the game. The response was immediate, with “It’s a Tide Ad” becoming a Twitter trending topic, a fan favorite and a social media darling. It was Adweek’s top choice and runaway winner for our 5 Best Ads of Super Bowl LII.

Bringing it back was just a matter of timing, Krehbiel said. “The insight didn’t go away,” she said. “People forget how much they appreciate clean clothes until they don’t have them.” And the message, which increased sales, brand affinity and other key metrics, has become a mantra in a category that’s not usually top of mind with consumers.

“Any moment where things look clean,” Krehbiel said, “we want it to be associated with Tide.”

Mixed Reviews

On Twitter, viewers were split on whether the revived Tide ads lived up to the originals.

“Talk about a campaign going downhill,” noted Adweek’s own creative editor, David Griner. “These #TideAd spots are a good concept, but poor execution,” noted another viewer. “Swing and a miss,” wrote another.

@TLStanleyLA terry.stanley@adweek.com T.L. Stanley is a senior editor at Adweek, where she specializes in consumer trends, cannabis marketing, meat alternatives, pop culture, challenger brands and creativity.