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I took part in a panel discussion at the IAA European Advertising summit this week along with Jim Carrol and Rita Clifton and chaired by the great John Grant (who gave me a copy of his excellent new book ‘The Innovation Manifesto’). We had to talk about our favourite European campaign. I chose Persil’s ‘Dirt is good’ despite the tragic creative work in the UK. I feel that this bit of thinking really hasn’t had the fame that it deserves which saddens me. This is the kind of thing that I said.
Image courtesy of KoAn


I have chosen this ‘Dirt is Good’ for Persil in order to be deliberately contrary.
I hate the ads. They are cheesy, trite, woefully lacking in any insight and horror of horrors they are by and large vignette ads. As we all know vignette ads are what creative teams wheel out when they can’t think of an idea.
But I love the strategy.
Planners like me get proposition envy when we come across thinking that we wish we had come up with. And this campaign makes me feel sick with proposition envy.
It also neatly illustrates a number of themes I am currently warming myself on.
This is a category that for decades has been seemingly incapable of creating communications with anything interesting to say. Against this backdrop of whites being washed whiter and brands with a new kind of bluey whiteness Persil decides that the arch enemy of detergent advertising throughout the twentieth century is actually its best mate. And ours too.
Persil believes that dirt – providing that you can effectively eradicate it at the end of the day – is a wonderful thing, evidence of creativity, adventure, exploration, endeavour and curiosity.
If we believe that markets are increasingly conversations then I maintain that every brand needs an opinion because opinions are the lifeblood of all conversation. And this is a full on brand opinion – evidence of a brand talking about its position not just its positioning.
And while it hasn’t yielded very good advertising in the UK, dirt is good has had a sensational effect on the other parts of the communications mix and informs every part of Persil’s conversation with its customers.
As part of its brilliant online presence Persil hosts the ‘United kingdom of dirt’ (accessible through the link to the main dirt is good site) where the activity of the month is currently hunting for worms
Persil’s sales promotion activity is built around dirt is good – at the moment you can collect proofs of purchase for school art materials.
It works in PR with specially commissioned research into play malnutrition that suggests that child development is now at risk because of the decline in messy play.
And it even extends to Corporate Social Responsibility where Persil works with organisations like British Cycling and Learning through Landscapes to promote outdoor play and leisure.
This thinking is a work of mild genius and I love it.
Yet more proof to me that there is no such thing as a low interest category only low interest thinking.

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