Two's company. Are we ready for realistic lavatory paper ads?

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By Magnus Shaw


Well, this should be fun. A column about poo (rather than one made up of it, which isn't unusual). You see, you're already wondering whether you really want to read on - and I don't blame you, who wants to read about that? Exactly. But don't blame me, blame advertising. They started it.

Dawn Porter, princess of the inappropriate (I seem to recall her going to bed with a lady to see if she'd become gay on one of her shows), has taken the Andrex shilling to promote their new range of moist bum wipes - and is actually talking about pooing in the ads.

On paper (hur!) this all seems very reasonable. Why shouldn't we more explicit about a product we all use from an early age? For decades we've pretended it's all about puppies gambolling around middle class homes trailing acres of Andrex behind them, without attracting an iota of human fury. However, the shocking truth is this: bog roll is not primarily a dog's toy. It's for cleansing one's backside after a 'movement'.  Sorry to startle you, but there it is. So, yes, surely it's time we were a bit more honest with each other and called a wipe a wipe. Only, when that actually happens, we're suddenly less enthusiastic. At least I am.

In the Dawn Porter spot, she's in a caravan with some made-up girlfriends (her real pals have far too much dignity to get roped into this, presumably). Apropos of nothing she presents everyone with a box of moist Andrex and off they trot for a dump (I did warn you). On their return, they gleefully sit with Dawn and report on the experience. Of course they do. I mean, what could be more natural than relating one's bottom escapades to one's mates, on telly, in a caravan? And hang on, that's a point, why are they all in a caravan? Surely an enclosed space is absolutely the last venue for this sort of experiment. And how did they manage to synchronise the gang's need for relief?  "Not as wet as I was expecting" says one delightful participant. Hells bells.

Anyway, the net result, at best, is a massively embarrassing advertisement. At worst, it's an enforced intrusion into a situation you hoped only existed in the wilder realms of the internet.

Perhaps it's just me being all awkward and English and perhaps you find the commercial very sensible and liberating. Perhaps you're just weird.
And now there's an online, companion piece. The Andrex people have set about the web with a profound question - are we a nation of 'folders' or 'scrunchers'. As we're being all open and forthright can admit something? I don't quite know what they mean. That is, are they asking how we prepare the paper for action - or how we compact it for disposal? Actually, I don't require an answer. Whichever, I don't even fancy checking for my own reply, let alone hearing the response of others. As one wag on Twitter said, 'There should be a third option. Ming your own bl**dy business.' Interestingly, I note a couple of 'amateur' blogs have sprung up, debating the matter. I'm sure Andrex pay well, but imagine that as a copywriting gig.

Of course, if I wasn't so horribly repressed, I'd be applauding the bravery of Andrex's new approach to their marketing . After all, the French and the Japanese have been running biologically accurate rear-roll ads for years and good for them. The thing is, we're not French or Japanese. No, here in Blighty we have a long tradition of pretending the frightful nastiness of our own bodies is just a crude myth. Babies arrive under gooseberry bushes and nakedness is an inconvenience occurring only when we swap our tightly buttoned clothing for thick, sturdy pyjamas. What's more pooping is reserved for farm animals and toddlers. 

Completely ridiculous I know, but having seen the alternative splashed across my TV and laptop, I'm convinced we're not really ready for this level of frankness. That's why we have locks on lavatory doors. 


Magnus Shaw is a blogger, copywriter and consultant



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