Craig Robinson’s New Ad Shows Gain Detergent is Nothing to Sniff At (Yes, It Is)

Craig Robinson’s career is marked by moments of high comedy, but his latest project has him relying on something different — choreography.

The actor, known for his turns on “The Office,” “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” and “Hot Tub Time Machine,” among others, is working on a new project on behalf of Procter & Gamble that aims to get consumers to harness their sense of smell. In an ad that offers a new version of Michael Sembello’s 1983 hit “Maniac,” Robinson dances his way through a story of a “small town guy on a laundry night” who is encouraged by the scent of Gain, the P&G detergent and cleaning product with a smell that has proven to be a powerful draw over the years. “I’m a Gain-iac,” he declares.

Somewhere among the outtakes, says Robinson, “there is an extended dance version. Watch out. I was all over the place.”

Procter launched the new campaign during Sunday NFL broadcasts and on primetime broadcast programs. And it has been boosting Gain’s ad activity in recent years, raising spend on the product to $29.7 million in 2020, according to Kantar, compared with a little more than $20 million in 2019 — a lift of around 48%. Last year, most ads for Gain were placed in syndicated game shows like “Wheel of Fortune” and “Jeopardy” and repeats of “Friends” and “The Office” on cable. The new campaign, says Amy Krehbiel, who oversees P&G’s laundry-products business in North America, “is a little bigger for us.”

Procter & Gamble may best be known for Tide, one of its biggest products, but clearly, Gain is nothing to sniff at.

Actually, says Krehbiel, it is. Procter sees the current moment, when consumers have focused more on the way they live their lives at home and the little details at the root of them, as an opportune one to promote Gain. “Freshness can really spark a lot of joy or emotion for people,” she says, noting that consumers are placing emphasis on things they can control in an era “when so much in their lives is uncertain” due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Burnishing Gain’s fresh scent has helped the detergent prevail against mighty competition — and not just laundry products made by rivals. For years, Procter & Gamble saw sales for Gain decline, partly because it was pitched the same way as Tide. But Tide was the better cleaning product, says Shane Meeker, Procter & Gamble’s company historian. “Gain went on a journey of a pretty steady 20-year decline,” says Meeker, and there are memos in the company’s files telling a past CEO that the time may have come to pull the plug on the product. “Give it one more try,” says a response at the top of the communication.

Procter took its cues about how to sell Gain from customers. In the late 1970s, the company heard from consumers who loved the way the product smelled. And executives began to place an emphasis on the olfactory. Commercials showed people putting freshly washed towels to their noses. Packaging featured images of the sun and sunbeams to emphasize a “fresh” theme. Sales, says Meeker, increased quickly.

The new ad featuring Robinson shows all consumers from different walks of life breathing deep the scent of washed socks and sheets. The actor even smells a pair of laundered workout pants.

The new pitch will be seen not only on TV, says Krehbiel, but on social media as well, with audio ads slated for radio.

 

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