This Toilet Paper Brand Wants Brits to Talk Crap

Andrex is calling time on toileting taboos with a purposeful marketing reboot

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It may not be every creative’s dream to work on a toilet paper account when they grow up, but FCB London’s latest taboo-busting work for Andrex shows that it doesn’t have to be dirty work.

The agency launched “Get Comfortable,” a bold new campaign for the U.K’s largest toilet roll manufacturer, which wants to encourage Brits to let go of their prudery and embarrassment about using the loo.

18 months in the making, the platform shuns the usual category tropes of product shots in pristine bathrooms in favor of funny, visually striking films and clever copy.

According to Matt Stone, marketing director for the U.K. and Ireland at parent company Kimberly-Clark, the work is a massive shift for Andrex, intended to “help the nation get over its collective social constipation” and bring a more “purposeful’ tone to Andrex’s marketing.

“We want people to confront their own relationship with the toilet and adopt healthier habits as a result,” he told ADWEEK. Part of this includes working with Bowel Cancer UK as a partner on the campaign, in order to raise awareness of symptoms of the disease and how to identify them in the bathroom.

“We’ve always been good at telling people we make great products, but this is going deeper. We conducted a lot of behavioral studies … and we found that there’s a shame and embarrassment [around going to the toilet] that gets in the way of people making the right health choices,” explained Stone.

For instance, Andrex found that it is incredibly common in the U.K. to fear using public bathrooms. One-half of Brits admit that being shy about their bowels stops them from pooping in work toilets or at a romantic partner’s house, and 41% are even afraid of doing so when visiting their in-laws at home.

The creative work marks a distinct break from Andrex’s former creative, which since 1972 has featured a gaggle of cute golden Labrador retriever puppies. However, there’s still a nod in there to the longtime brand mascot.

Andrex’s famous puppies still have a role in the ads, but the tone has shifted.Andrex

The launch film, “Office,” shows a woman who unintentionally does an audible fart in front of her colleagues. A brief, awkward pause follows before she looks down to see the Andrex puppy under her desk, giving her an encouraging nod.

Emboldened, she takes control of her destiny, grabbing a roll of Andrex and striding purposefully through the office with a toilet roll in hand. As the music builds to a crescendo, the film ends with her entering the toilet, confidently owning her actions.

Another spot explores the feeling post-poop relief, showing a man dancing to a funky soundtrack in a public toilet.

The spots use humor to tackle toilet taboos.Andrex

Directed by lauded commercials director Andreas Nilsson, there’s no voiceover on the films—just a tagline, “Get Comfortable,” accompanied by the Andrex logo.

From puppies to purpose

With many “red flag” warning symptoms for bowel issues—from Crohn’s disease to cancer and colitis—first showing up in toilet habits, Stone hopes that opening up the conversation will help “close the embarrassment gap” and “save lives” in the process.

The films are supported by a nationwide series of billboard and newspaper ads featuring standout visuals and headlines such as “Live Unclenched” and “Conquer the first Office Poo,” designed to get people to question their inhibitions around toileting.

The out-of-home ads feature striking visuals and simple copy to ‘disarm’ consumers.Andrex

In using humor to address the toilet stigma head-on, Stone believes the resulting ads will be “audaciously disarming,” and make the brand a more purposeful one in people’s lives.

“If you ever want a challenge as a marketer, come and work in a category that people actively avoid,” he laughed, “because it forces you to really think about how to get your message out there and tackle [big] topics.”

Stone added, “We wanted to disarm this topic so it’s no longer uncomfortable. Humor is one of the best ways to do that, especially in British culture.”

Being funny can pay off for brands. According to Kantar research, humor in advertising has been declining since roughly 2000. However, a separate 2022 study from Oracle found that 90% of people were more likely to remember a brand’s ad more if it was funny, while 48% said they didn’t feel they had a relationship with a brand unless it made them smile or laugh.

A press campaign will run in tandem.Andrex

The campaign comes shortly after the 2023 launch of Andrex’s partnership with Bowel Cancer UK and broadcaster ITV, with a joint campaign featuring past Big Brother housemates and Sharon Osbourne that began to appear in the final week of Celebrity Big Brother.

This will be followed in April by a joint Andrex and Bowel Cancer UK spot as part of the wider “Get Comfortable” campaign dubbed “Born Unembarrassed.”

While the push aims to cement Andrex as a more purposeful brand, Stone also wants to drive sales and engage younger consumers in a category being disrupted by direct-to-consumer competitors such as Who Gives a Crap.

“Being a big, generic brand is great, but we have to constantly work to stay relevant. We want to stay as relevant as possible for all generations, particularly newer generations, and that means [as a brand] you have to reinvent yourself not completely, but keep evolving to stay modern,” he said.

“But ultimately, this is about enabling people to make valued choices on a really simple level, whether that’s choosing a better product or adopting a better routine,” he added.

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