‘Men with Cramps’ Fun, Ultimately Ineffective


The NY Times today has a story on brands — desperate to engage audiences — trying wild and crazy viral campaigns to get attention. The most elaborate of these is the “men with cramps” mockumentary and related websites. It’s funny and engaging up to a point.

The idea is that it will show up on video sites and be forwarded around the Internet. That is happening, chiefly because of all the coverage regarding how “staid” P&G is loosening up. The product actually being sold is Proctor & Gamble’s “ThermaCare,” a pain reliever for women’s menstrual cramps. But the semi-humorous men with cramps campaign only marginally refers to the product and the context of its presentation is satirical and somewhat confusing, diminishing the impact.

There are no sales data to reflect whether the campaign has done anything yet but generate coverage.

The risk here — the risk identified by the Times is the wrong one in my view — is not that the brand will somehow be tainted but that the money will have been wasted and there will be an intangible opportunity cost. I’m sure it was loads of fun to think up and produce.

I’m all for humor and novel advertising approaches. But this campaign doesn’t seem funny enough to me nor does it provide enough information to genuinely build awareness of the real product.

My favorite example of this sort of approach gone wrong is the “I heard it through the grapevine” California raisins campaign of the 1980s. For those who never saw/heard it or don’t remember it, the campaign featured claymation raisins singing the 1968 Marvin Gaye song.

The campaign, in one sense, was so much more successful than any could’ve predicted. Wikipedia summarizes:

To their surprise, the commercial became wildly popular, spawning future commercials, two TV specials (Meet the Raisins and Raisins Sold Out), and a Saturday morning cartoon series, aptly titled The California Raisin Show. The Raisins also appeared in holiday specials such as A Claymation Christmas Celebration.

Raisin sales, the actual measure of success, actually were flat and for a time even declined during the period of the campaign’s run. How crazy is that? That’s the danger here: the agency creates a commercial everybody loves buy nobody buys the product.

Proving that I don’t know everything 🙂 the Paris Hilton “smut burger” campaign did in fact seem to boost brand awareness and sales at the Carl’s Jr. hamburger chain.

The bottom line is that all this has to be done with great skill. But the old approaches don’t work anymore so they’ve got to do something right?


One Response to “‘Men with Cramps’ Fun, Ultimately Ineffective”

  1. JR Says:


    The people at the Effie awards didn’t think so. You know, the Effies. The awards given each year using program effectiveness as the number one judging criteria. You know, the Effies.


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