The Spot: Mitchum’s Pit Stop

The deodorant brand declares its colorful, quirky love for the unappreciated armpit

GENESIS: With its customers skewing older, Mitchum wanted a younger, punchier visual iconography. Mother came up with actual icons—simple objects in primary colors, like a dumbbell for strength, an umbrella for protection, and a heart for love—as in "Love thy pits," the tongue-in-cheek tagline for a new ad campaign. The agency painted the icons on people's bodies in print ads first, then replicated the effect with animation on top of live action in three fast-paced, theatrical TV spots (the newest broke last week). The commercials center around heated moments in which Mitchum helps people keep their cool. The ads are visually innovative but with a throwback promise. "Lots of brands say you can get the girl, you can get the job, you can be sexy," says Revlon global CMO Julia Goldin. "Mitchum is about efficacy—wetness control, odor control. Our passion is the pits."

COPYWRITING: The scripts invented appealing, fallible characters—a guy who aces a job interview even though he lied on his résumé; another guy caught in a dance-off at a wedding; and in the new spot, aimed at women, a mom who picks up the wrong child from soccer practice. (Unlike brands like Old Spice and Secret, Mitchum has products for both sexes—thus, this campaign targets the two.) "We tried to think of funny, real-life examples, maybe a little bit exaggerated, of times you might sweat," says Mother creative Christine Gignac. The rapid-fire writing calms down when the product appears. "Your mind is going quickly, but your armpits, despite the chaos, are calm, cool and collected," says Mother creative Dave Clark. The "Love thy pits" line was thrown around internally as a mantra, but was too good not to use in the ads. "Armpits are always by your side, they've got your back, even though you neglect them," says Clark. "'Love thy pits' felt like an anthem, a rallying cry people could absurdly get behind." Adds Gignac, "We know it's funny to be in love with your armpits. It gives it a nice sense of humor."

ART DIRECTION: The spots were shot over three days in a big empty studio space in Brooklyn, N.Y. Director Jonathan Notaro used a new technique that mapped the bodypaint animation to the pores of the actors' skin. "I don't know if we would have gotten that level of authenticity even two years ago," says Clark. The sets are self-consciously cartoony and abstract—a mind-space where the characters are recalling, rather than living, their stories. "It feels a bit stream of consciousness," says Gignac. "We left the edges of the backgrounds in. We're not trying to hide that these are props and this is a set." The product is literally put on a pedestal—another subtle wink.

TALENT: The actors needed to be attractive, likable, and in good enough shape that their bodies could be a canvas. The voice-over was done by Rodger Parsons, who exuded "authentic confidence," says Clark. "We also liked his deep voice against this more poppy, vibrant little world we were creating."

SOUND: Rhythmic music pushes the action along but is largely in the background, giving the sound effects and action some breathing room.

MEDIA: Jimmy Kimmel aired the first spot in a branded skit on his talk show. The spots have been running on broadcast, cable, and online. Mother redesigned, and the new icon-themed packaging will debut in 2012. An armpit is also tweeting at @LoveThyPits.