Sorry Mum

I know I seem obsessed with Persil.

But here is how to make proper Dirt is Good advertising rather than the tat on our tellies. It is for Ala Omo, which is the equivalent of Persil in Argentina. It works because it turns the intellectual concept of dirt being good into something very tangiable and visceral, it is advertising that you become involved in rather than advertising you view. The endline is interesting too, it translates as “What they learn stays, dirty goes away”.

And guess what you are going to think every time you are about to bollock your kids for getting grubby? “What an arsehole I am”.

If you click through I have put up an English translation. If you don’t speak Spanish I recommend you read it first.

Thanks to Adstructure who posted the ad and translation and put me onto this.

Come on BBH sort it out.


Sorry mum,
sorry mum,
I got dirty
I didn’t even notice
Where was my head?
I was distracted saving human lives
Feeding my daughter
Your daughter
Your grand-daughter, mum.
It happened while I was helping others
Leaving behind illogical fears
Here, I got dirty learning to have ideas of my own
Here, learning not to be selfish
To interact with others
Playing like this helped me
To notice how important is to help others
to not quit in the face of trouble
Sorry mum,
Getting dirty I reinforced my self-esteem
So in future I won’t let anybody
Carry me away.
You already know it
Mum, do you forgive me for getting dirty?
It wasn’t a very mature thing to do.
I promise you…
I promise you that I will do it again.
What they learn stays,
dirty goes away.
Ala (the equivalent to Persil)

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18 Replies to “Sorry Mum”

  1. And nowhere do they utter the dreaded and disputable phrase “Dirt Is Good.” It would be interesting to know why that happened – was it a language or cultural issue or did someone deliberately do it?
    Doesn’t the whole problem over here (and the cause of the ongoing effectiveness debate) lie with the original decision to take an original, nuanced idea and submit it to the usual advertising process whereby it’s been reduced to a trite slogan?
    The thinking may have changed, but the process didn’t.

  2. Here is another Argentinian (oh, land of brilliance) execution that does use “Dirt is Good” but to good effect. It would probably cause some sort of religious controversy here, but it is without doubt a wonderful and endearing piece. Same strategy yet expresed from completely different angle, one that like “Sorry Mum” ( although maybe in a less targeted way) truly engages on a highly emotional plain.
    See what you make of it:


  3. I think that’s the problem John, why we have to be so literate with the advertising? The idea of Dirt is Good is implicit within the message, the whole copy goes around on why getting dirt is good for kids, why then kill it with a product shot and a slogan?
    As a creative I have found sometimes that the client think that the concept and the copy (or slogan) are the same thing, which is not. The concept, or brand idea as Richard calls it, is more than that, is a phrase that holds all the thinking process, the interpretation that the creative team makes from the insight.
    Finally, Richard I look further the information about this ad. It was made by Santo (an independent shop) but they only where in charge of launching the concept of Dirt is Good in Latin America. Go here to see what the CD Sebastian Wilhelm has to said about the spot (http://scratchyourhead.blogspot.com/2006/07/santo-buenos-aires-bronze-lion-tv.html). I think this proof that the DIG idea doesn’t come from here either.

  4. Agree with you that this is a much more interesting way to approach the strategy. But I can’t help feeling I’ve seen the execution before. Nike ‘If you let me play’ from 1995.


  5. Agreed, also shades of Double Life in there as well. Which merely begs the question – what value should one place on executional originality? Is it really relevant?

  6. Two things these executions have in common:
    1) They don’t use the phrase “Dirt is Good” – instead they bring the phrase to life and give it meaning and justification.
    2) Neither of the spots is 30 seconds long. In large parts of Latin America, media independents are quite rightly illegal. This means that creative people have some influence over the form as well as the content of an advertisement. In many ways, Latin American TV ads aren’t really more creative than European ads – they are longer, that’s all.
    Richard has long said he believes Dirt is Good does not find its best expression in advertising but in more engaging, interactive forms of communication. Quite likely this is true. But what may also be true is that you cannot do justice to an idea of this magnitude in thirty seconds – in my opinion a completely moronic length for most forms of communication.
    Ogilvy in India (an undeveloped market where creative agencies still engage in antediluvian practices such as talking to media agencies) has reached an accommodation with their media counterparts whereby they try to avoid 30-second spots altogether in favour of 60s and 10s. Reach and frequency is better, and creative much richer.
    Thinking about it, you could make a cute series of shorter-form spots with this Latin work.
    But as long as creatives are still allowed to make a once-aired longer-form ad for awards purposes, they won’t really care what the public sees.

  7. Hang on! Can we just rewind to ‘what value should one place on executional originality’? Do we really still believe that what we say is more important than, or even as important as, how we say it? Hasn’t the executional ‘body language’ of brands, the ‘how you say it’ bit, overtaken the old idea of the USP / magic strategic bullet that, once shot at the target, preferably in a machine-gun volley of multiple repetitive impacts, will irresistibly compel the target to change their opinion and do as bidden? Or… were you deliberately trying to wind us up?

  8. Oi, there I was being nice about you lot and your Guardian work and now you have got all huffy. I merely want to debate the importance of executional originality Christie. So what if an ad was made ten years ago on the other side of the world that is remarkably similar to the one you have just made. Does the customer care about us being anal about execution?

  9. Huff over – let’s debate! I wasn’t trying to make the point in a partisan way. Clearly the Nike / Persil similiarity is probably irrelevant to most consumers. But I do think/hope the details of execution matter to consumers. The accumulation of those details is part of what makes up their idea of a brand. Those executional details are the reason why people can recognise on first viewing a brand new ad from, say, BMW or Stella, even if they don’t see the logo at the end. And if your brand doesn’t have any of those identifiable executional signs, so you can just borrow some temporarily from someone else, then it seems to me that you’re building your castle on sand.

  10. Yes yes yes. Of course execution matters (thankfully for you lot over in Hoxton), it carries the lion’s share of the communications task and executional nuance is the secret behind strong attribution as you suggest (Still love the fact that none of the Krone and Bernbach Avis ads carries a logo but remain some of the best ‘branded’ press ads in history).
    What we are talking about is executional technique and craft though. Not the creative idea and many of the similarities you were drawing about the Ala Omo ad were about familiar creative ideas. That is what I want to debate.
    Is DDB wrong to press into service the Audi (yuppy wanker) creative idea for VW Golf? It may seem a little unoriginal to us but does it actually reduce the efficacy of the advertising -maybe some stories are so good we can bare hearing them from a number of brands over time.
    So what we are discussing is not execution really but originality.

  11. In other fields, where originality is theoretically prized, it’s OK to tell the same story again, whether that’s the film of a book, the re-make of a film or the revival of a play. A fresh interpretation is artistically valid. ‘The singer not the song’ and all that. But not in our business. Is this just creative snobbery or does originality have an intrinsic value by making the work more impactful and effective than a derivative route? I don’t know. (Though I’d like to think different is better.)Maybe it could be argued that, as in the music business, the best way for a new b(r)and to break through is with a cover version of a familiar, tried and tested strategy. But this isn’t something that can sustain a pop group, or brand, for very long.

  12. Can’t believe two grown up and clever planners are arguing about what’s more important style or content? Both are critical to success …no? Without one you’re Strsky, without the other Hutch.

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