This week in my NMAC 3145 class, we’ve been talking about effective advertising. We were tasked with choosing an ad campaign and analyzing why it is effective, what the audience it’s aiming for is, and what platforms they use for the campaign.
I decided to take a look at a reasonbly long-running campaign, the Dawn Saves Lives campaign. For the past decade, Dawn dish soap has sporadically highlighted that Dawn dish soap saves wildlife in the event of oil spills. Dawn dish soap is pretty much what we think about when we see people washing off oil-slicked ducks and seabirds, because Dawn is the only cleaning product that has long advertised their product as a savior of wildlife.
It’s harder to nail down what platforms are used by this ad campaign, because it has spanned from 2006 (only one year into the life of Youtube) until today with a highlight around the time of the BP oil spill. That year, there was an up-swing in the airing of the advertisements.
The commercial I’m sure we’re all familiar with is this one:
This commercial is effective because most everyone likes animals. Even if you don’t particularly care about the environment, most people see a little fuzzy baby duckling and goes ‘awwww’. A cute baby animal that is covered in oil being gently scrubbed with soft-looking bubbles is a great visual image to persuade people to pay attention to the ad and associate good things with this product because it’s not just a good thing, saving a baby animal, but it’s depicted in such a ‘warm and fuzzy’ manner. It seems more like the baby duck is getting a warm, bubbly bath to rid it of the icky, nasty oil than actually depicting the harm and suffering the duck was faced with before being cleaned off. It plays into the part of most people who naturally care about animals, babies, gentleness, and kindness to a soft baby duckling.
After that, it goes on to tell you that the company is going to donate a VERY LARGE sum of money to helping the wildlife and the environment (or so it’s implied) and it makes it so that, even if you weren’t already inspired to buy their product, you really want to buy it now that they are telling you YOUR money is going to help the baby animals. It reinforces that idea by showing them releasing the rescued animals back into the wild.
Even now, I just caught myself thinking, ‘Wow, I should go buy some Dawn’ when I know it’s marketing manipulation.
Beyond that commercial, however, there is also the label on the bottle:
The baby duck on the bottle is the same size as the logo, and the message “Dawn Helps Save Wildlife” is almost as big as the words on the logo. It is selling the idea of saving a baby duck more than it is washing your dishes, because what appeals more to people, doing dishes well or saving a baby duck?
Beyond the ad and the logo, you have coupon-looking ads online on websites in the sidebar and in pop-ups that look like this:
The ad looks like a coupon and says “Save” but instead of having an actual coupon, it’s telling you that if you buy Dawn, you’re saving the baby animal. And once again, it’s fluffy baby animals because saving the sea urchins isn’t as appealing as saving a baby penguin, or a baby seal, or a baby duckling. These ads are the types that pop up on a blog article and you have to click the X to close them and continue reading, and while those ads mostly go ignored, some of us can’t help but pause and go ‘awww’ at the baby animal, and that’s when we see the “Dawn Saves Animals” advertisement.
Dawn’s social media accounts are all about the baby ducks!
Facebook (forgive the Pirate language, I just took a screenshot with my FB account logged in):
The Produce Website:
It’s really hard to run a more useful campaign than one where you demonstrate a product saving very cute baby animals from death. It’s a harsh reality but a real one that many people don’t care nearly as much about other humans as they do about baby animals. Baby animals is one of the most universal ways to reach people’s emotional centers. It’s hard to face it, but even if they were cleaning the hospital rooms of orphan children with diseases with their product, it wouldn’t reach the same emotional appeal as fluffy, fuzzy, adorable baby animals.
And by showing their product cleaning the animals off, showing that their company gives back some of its profits to charities for the animals, and by showing actual animals that have been saved being released back into the wild, it proves to be what I would argue is one of the most effective advertising campaigns probably to ever exist.