Media: Strategy Analysis - Persil brings 'dirt is good' idea to life

Brand: Persil
Client: Ros Walker, category director for skin and cleansing care,
Unilever Personal Care
Brief: Bring to life the Persil "dirt is good" philosophy
Target audience: Parents and children, aged 6-11
Budget: £5 million

Communications planning: Michaelides & Bednash
Media: MindShare
Creative: JWT/Antidote
Online: Digit


Persil wanted a big, integrated sports idea for the summer, which would bring its core philosophy "dirt is good" to life.

Given it was a World Cup year, Michaelides & Bednash had to create an idea around sport that felt fresh and original. The view was that it wasn't about telling parents that dirt is good, they know that already - it had to turn this belief into behaviour, and encourage them to play more sport with their children.

Research shows that for children to get the most from sport, the best coaches are parents. When a parent coaches a child, they make a difference to what that child takes from the experience. The main idea was about coaching - captured in the line: "Will you be my coach?"


A must-have "Family Coaching Kit" was developed, which contained a special reaction ball, created with Mitre, a set of skills cards, a stopwatch and a DVD that featured Kelly Holmes and Steven Gerrard. The kits taught children the building blocks of sport - agility, balance and co-ordination - and were only available by buying Persil.

- TV: Two 30-second ads were produced. The first was all about inspiring parents to coach their children in sport. The second featured Gerrard promoting the coaching kit.

- Programme content: To make sure the idea had credibility with children, M&B co-created a 12-part reality TV show with Nickelodeon called Be My Coach: The Challenge. The programme followed three families and showed how their lives were transformed with the arrival of the kit. The show ran throughout the summer on Nickelodeon and online.

- Press: The skills cards were featured as pull-out cards in double-page spread press ads.

- Online: Two portals were created - one for parents and one for children. The parents' section explained why Persil got involved with sports, and why coaching is important. Doing it this way helped keep the kids' area free for games, downloads and for children to upload their own photos. The online campaign used websites from Disney, Jetix and Nickelodeon to drive people to the site. M&B also created an online "be my coach" TV channel, which showcased the TV episodes.

- Posters: Six-sheets and special lenticular posters outside supermarkets showcased the reaction ball and the special pack.

- Events: M&B created a live event which was then put out as an exclusive webcast on AOL. The event featured Mr Woo, the world's "keepy-uppy" champion, testing his skills with the reaction ball and giving parents and children a chance to join in.


The initial results have beaten all targets and have exceeded all Unilever's expectations.

THE VERDICT: Toby Roberts head of strategy, OMD UK

According to any newspaper or magazine article you read, Jamie Oliver is one of the most admired men in Britain. And rightly so - his transformation from Toploader fan and sometime-chef to socio-political campaigner has been awe-inspiring. Marketers have looked to capitalise on the issues he catapulted into the public consciousness, either by reformulating products or by encouraging our children to take more exercise.

All of this is to be applauded, but it has also raised questions in agencies and marketing departments across the land, the most significant being: "How do we avoid being labelled as 'astroturfers'?" ("Astroturf" is, apparently, the rather pleasing new name for "bogus" grass-roots marketing programmes). If you were in any doubt about the relevance of this concept, the "be my coach" website reassures thus: "We believe that when kids are free to get dirty, they learn about life and develop important skills and values." Hmm, OK.

That aside, the central idea is strong - get parents to coach their kids, and this is communicated well in the ads. The agencies have clearly taken on the challenges of depth and "engagement" in a pretty low-interest category. In addition to a lumpy 1,500 TVRs, all the Media 2.0 boxes are ticked - website with user-generated content upload facility. Check. Ad-funded programming. Check. Webcasted events. Check. New printing techniques. Check. It must have taken a lot of work to pull together.

The problem I have is that I don't get a sense of the scale of any of this stuff. It feels like the final 10 per cent of the budget after the TV plan has been sorted. This is where we need some results. My own inspection of the website revealed that not much had been uploaded by consumers. And when I typed "be my coach" into Google, the website was nowhere to be seen.

It would have been helpful to know what the campaign objectives were. OK, we're told it has beaten targets and exceeded expectations, but we don't know what the targets were. Sales? Image? Participation? Something else? Help us out here.

That's why I found this so bloody hard to write. It's a strongly executed campaign, but I've got this voice in my head asking: "Why? What's the point of all this?" I hope it stops soon.

Score: 3 out of 5.

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